Christmas is a season to be jolly for many families and that includes our pets. However, the festive holiday period also offers some dangers for animals that keep emergency veterinarians very busy!
Every year, thousands of pets end up at the vet clinic injured or extremely ill, which can be avoided with a little extra knowledge of the dangers.
Veterinary surgeon Dr David Simpson from Sydney’s 24-hour Animal Referral Hospital once told me about a Golden Retriever that was brought in with signs of a bloated, painful abdomen. Apparently, the dog was allowed to roam around during a Christmas party and ate everything it could get its paws on! We’re talking the equivalent of several plates of food – chicken necks, fish, vegetables, a large mass of cabanossi and various finger foods.
But it wasn’t the massive amount of food that was of major concern. The hungry canine also gobbled up beer bottle tops, string balloons, several long and sharp, wooden skewer sticks with BBQ meat on them, a lollipop stick, assorted plastic and pieces of fabric. Of course, surgery was necessary to remove the dangerous items!
This illustrates what dogs can eat during the holiday season!
Here are some tips I collected from vets over the years to help keep your pets safe and off the surgical table!
• Mind how much you feed your pet during the holidays. Eating large amounts of cooked and uncooked fat trimmings can give your pooch gastrointestinal problems, not to mention cause pancreatitis.
• Remember, chocolate, onions, grapes and artificial sweeteners (eg xylitol) are toxic to pets.
• Cooked bones are a no no. Your dog may have trouble swallowing and if left untreated, it can be fatal.
• Get to the vet immediately if your pet shows signs of depression, lethargy, swollen abdomen, gastrointestinal bleeding and/or weakness.
• Don’t leave lying around pieces of Xmas decorations, like tinsel, strings or cotton. Ornaments can sometimes be swallowed by cats, kittens and puppies, and cause gastrointestinal obstruction.
• Rabbits love chewing and that includes electric cords and Christmas lights. You can fence off your holiday tree with a baby gate to help avoid problems!
• Watch for string nets on meat – it can get stuck in your dog’s intestines and cause great damage!
• Avoid decorating your home with the Lilly, Poinsettia, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Brunfelsia) and Sago Palm (Cycad) as they can be toxic to cats!
Dr Leigh Davidson from Your Vet Online said many cats are poisoned by these plants and sadly, not all survive. She told me about a cat named Minke which nearly died after being poisoned by Easter Lilies at her neighbour’s property. Fortunately, Minke’s owner noticed her behaviour changing and quickly sought veterinary advice.
Cats that ingest any part of a lily suffer from acute kidney damage, which means their kidneys shut down and stop functioning. Dr Leigh said many cats cannot be saved unless aggressive treatment is started immediately.
• Keep your pets at home safely secured during thunderstorms and fireworks, especially on New Year’s Eve.
• On hot summer days, beware of heat stress in pets, particularly flat-faced dogs and cats. If your pet is having a hard time breathing, get to the vet right away!
• Keep your pet indoors in an air-conditioned environment, otherwise make sure your pet has shade and cool water outside. For rabbits, you can freeze water in a plastic bottle and leave it in the hutch to cool off your bunny. It’s crucial to keep them in the shade!
• Never leave your pet in a hot car! Six minutes is all it takes for a dog to overheat in a hot car and you could lose your best friend forever.
• Do not take your dog for a walk in the middle of the day when it’s hottest. I always touch the ground with my bare hand to check how hot it is before I venture out with my dog.
• Regular grooming (brushing), bathing or getting clipped can help to make your pet more comfortable and cooler during the summer months.
• Beware of paralysis ticks and snake bites during holidays as they can be fatal if not treated immediately with the right antivenom.
• Fleas and ticks multiply in the summer months so make sure your pet has prevention treatment, such as powders, medicated shampoos, tablets, collars and spot-on applications. Your vet can advise the most appropriate treatment for your pet.
• Small animals, like rabbits and guinea pigs, can also suffer from fleas. Make sure you only use medication on species that it’s designed for.