The holiday season is upon us and all over the city people are getting ready. The stores are crowded with shoppers and houses are bedecked with lights, greenery, and other festive decorations in celebration of the season. Some will stay close to home for the holidays, others will travel. Parties will be hosted and attended, familiar movies will be watched on TV. Our weather may be cold (or even
snowy) or it may be balmy. But whether we’re wearing layers of clothing or T-shirts, our pets should always be considered in holiday planning.
For many people, decorating for the holidays is one of their favorite parts of the year. Décor can pose some risks, however, so it’s important to be aware of how decorations may affect your pet. If you’re putting up a Christmas tree this year, be mindful of what ornaments and decorations are easily available to you pet. Ornaments that get broken or eaten may cut or cause trauma to paws, the mouth, or cause intestinal blockages. Tinsel is particularly attractive to some cats, but can cause serious intestinal damage if it is eaten and becomes stuck in the intestinal tract. Some pets may be tempted to chew on electrical cords, so unplugging lights and other decorations when you leave the house is a good idea. If your pet has chewed on an electrical cord, please see your veterinarian even if the injury seems minor as electrical injuries can have serious complications. The tree itself may seem like a great new climbing toy for your cat and could fall over if not properly secured. If you have a live tree, any additives in the tree’s water may be toxic or harmful for your pet if ingested. There are also many plants that can be harmful to pets that are often used in holiday decorating like mistletoe, holly, amaryllis, pine, and others. Keeping these out of reach of your pet will help to avoid any accidental ingestion.
Ingestion is a big part of this season for people, too. Since the food we eat at this time of year tends to richer than usual, giving table scraps to your pets can be more problematic. It’s always best to stay away from table scraps for pets, but especially important during the holidays. Eating very rich food can lead to stomach and intestinal upset in pets, or even to a more serious illness called pancreatitis. Bones can cause trauma to the mouth or stomach, or may become lodged in the GI tract, requiring surgical removal. Other foods like, raisins, grapes, onions, garlic and chocolate are toxic to pets. Over-indulgence for you may just result in wearing bigger pants, but for your pet, it could lead to serious illness.
If you’re travelling this year, there are a few things regarding your pets to consider. Airlines may require a certificate from a veterinarian stating that your pet is healthy and up to date on vaccinations. They may also require a particular type of carrier or have restrictions regarding where the animals ride within the airplane. If you’re travelling without your pet, many boarding facilities will need copies of your pet’s vaccination records. Having all your pet’s medical records and ID information in one location will also help a pet sitter should a medical or other concern arise. Different states, boarding facilities, and airlines can have different requirements for travel and entry, so it’s important to obtain a list of requirements well before your departure date to ensure that your pet is ready to travel when you are.
If you’re hosting a party or houseguests, having a quiet place in your home away from guests can help to relieve the stress that holiday parties and houseguests can cause your pets to feel. House or party guests who are not familiar with your home or pets may accidently leave a door open, allowing your pets to embark on an unexpected tour of the neighborhood. Making sure that your pet’s microchip or ID tag information is correct will help to reunite you with your pet should they get lost during the holidays.
While you’re decorating and preparing for the holidays this year, don’t forget your animal companions. With a few considerations, you can help to make a safe and happy holiday for all of your family members.
Dr. Sarah Reardon has been a veterinarian with the Louisiana SPCA since 2014. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Reardon has 3 dogs, all Louisiana SPCA rescues. If you have a question for Dr. Reardon, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit la-spca.org/clinic.