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Lessons from Rudolph - Avoid Dashing to the Vet this Holiday Season

"Mr. Naughty Pants" photo courtesy of Erin Devine
"Mr. Naughty Pants" photo courtesy of Erin Devine
Hide the cords and anchor trees securely
Cats climb branches and dogs’ tails are swirly
Keep plants and ornaments out of reach
Eating things they shouldn’t is a pet’s niche
Tinsel, garland and ribbon can be deadly
When swallowed, they create quite the medley
Keep these tips in mind as the holidays draw near 
And enjoy the season with your pets this year!

                                      -a poem by PAW’s own Julie Palmer

As the holidays approach it’s easy to get swept away with spreading holiday cheer and forget about those family members with the two furry ears. While this time of year brings excitement it also brings many potentially dangerous circumstances for your pets. Below are some tips to keep in mind to keep them safe and avoid an unwanted trip to the veterinarian.

While festive and beautiful, holiday decorations can cause injury to your pets. It is important to anchor Christmas trees securely because curious cats love to climb branches and dogs’ are blissfully unaware of the potential power behind their wagging tails. One foul swoop and your tree could fall over. When ingested, tinsel, garland and ribbon can cause blockages in the intestinal tract. In addition, be sure that all breakable glass ornaments are hung out of reach and that any ornaments with metal fastenings are secure as tiny pieces can be stepped on or swallowed. It is also essential to secure and/or cover all cords to prevent your pet from chewing them. Munching on cords can lead to electric shock or even electrocution. Although National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation made light of this situation, you don’t want it happening to your pet. We have already seen a case this year of a dog was so fascinated with the tree, he ingested Christmas tree bulbs.  The family has found success using a portable electric fence transmitter to keep “Mr. Naughty Pants” away from the tree, which may be something to consider if you have your own determined pet. 

Tree stand water is not a healthy choice for your pet to drink.  Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which can be harmful to your pet.  Although the National Christmas Tree Association recommends using only plain water, some people add various preservative additives and these may pose additional noxious hazards.  Furthermore, remember to vacuum or sweep up pine needles frequently because they can be toxic to your pet when eaten.  

Gaining weight during the holidays isn’t something that only affects us; it can affect your pets too. It is important to keep your pet's eating and exercise habits to as close to normal as possible. This includes minimizing holiday treats.  Not only does this keep them healthy but it also helps avoid potentially toxic foods. Rich and fatty foods can cause pancreatitis and inflammation in the digestive system. Some foods including chocolate and raisins can be very harmful and potentially deadly. Bones from holiday turkeys are also a potential risk as they can tear or obstruct your pet’s intestinal tract. Be sure pets don’t have access to a garbage can where leftovers can be found. For more information about potentially toxic foods please refer to our “Pet Picnic Poisons” blog post.

Decorative plants are another potential hazard for your pets.  Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats and can also be deadly. Poinsettias can be upsetting to the digestive system. Mistletoe and its berries can be highly toxic causing stomach upset and heart issues. Holly, amaryllis and hibiscus can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Also please keep in mind that holiday guests and celebrations can disrupt a pet’s routine and cause stress. It is important to have a quiet place for your pet to escape to. This will reduce anxiety and help insure they don’t escape out an open door when frightened.

We hope these tips will help you and your furry companions stay safe this holiday season! 


About the Author

Corey Shagensky, DVM, is the founder and owner of Progressive Animal Wellness (PAW) in Avon.  He has been practicing veterinary medicine since earning his degree from Cornell University in 2004.  He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, the Avon Chamber of Commerce, and the Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunities.  His areas of particular professional interest include dermatology, endocrinology, oral health, and preventive medicine.  An avid road bicyclist and gardener, Dr. Shagensky also enjoys cooking, baking, sailing, playing guitar, and trying to read as many classic books/novels as he can.  He lives in West Hartford with his wife, Jen, their two children, and Gertie, a mix he rescued from the SPCA while at Cornell.  Connect with PAW on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram  too.




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