So I was talking to my 15 ½-year-old lab Daisy the other day (I’d talk to her sister Rosie too, but she’s pretty deaf), and I asked her if she was looking forward to the holidays. Of course, Daisy didn’t answer me (I’m odd, but not that odd), but it got me thinking about the holidays from my pet’s perspective. The holidays are my favorite time of year, but if you are a dog or cat they can be a little hazardous. Every year at this time I see a number of pets that get sick or hurt in holiday-related ways, most of which can be prevented with a little planning.
Take Christmas plants and decorations: Sure, they’re beautiful, but for an inquisitive cat or a hungry dog, they can be pretty risky. Chewing on the Christmas tree or drinking the water from it will give them an upset stomach, but if you add a fertilizer or preservative to the water, they can really get sick. Poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe leaves will mainly cause vomiting if eaten, but the berries of holly and mistletoe are toxic. The really dangerous holiday flowers are lilies. Many varieties can cause kidney failure in cats that eat just a small amount, so do your cat a favor and keep lilies out of the house.
Even the present wrapping can be dangerous: Many cats love chewing on ribbons, and I spent my first Christmas Eve as a veterinarian surgically removing three feet of green curling ribbon from the stomach and intestines of a big gray cat named Mr. Belvedere before it could kill him. Tinsel can have the same effect, so it has been banned from my tree ever since I became a vet.
All of the other things that pets seem to like to get their mouths on this time of year can cause problems too: Chocolate (particularly baker’s and dark chocolate), potpourri, Christmas lights, electrical cords and batteries. Even the leftovers from the table can make them quite sick.
Finally, remember that just like us, some pets get very stressed this time of year. Not all of them enjoy the noise and crowds of parties, so make sure to give the shy ones a safe, quiet place to hide from all of the festivities.
Oh, and Daisy says to have a wonderful, safe holiday.