Simba gradually awoke from the anesthesia. She was a small cat, but she had a large catheter in her leg, a lot of pain medication on board, and a lot of stitches in her abdomen. She slowly remembered what had happenedthe tinsel had been so alluring, moving and sparkling every time she walked past the tree. She had grabbed a strand in her mouth and run under the couch. As she chewed, the tinsel had wrapped around her tongue, and she began to swallow. The end of the strand made it all the way to her small intestines, which bunched up as they tried to move the tinsel alonglike a drawstring in a sweatshirt. Simba’s intestines, however, were not tough like a thick sweatshirt, and the tinsel began to cause damage. By the time Simba was sick and vomiting, the tinsel had cut through her intestines in several places. 

Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic doesn’t want your pets to share Simba’s holiday emergency experience. Read on to learn about pet risks with holiday decorations, food, and activities, and how to avoid pet holiday problems.

Pets and holiday decor dangers

We like simply admiring holiday decorations, but our pets often see them as toys or food.

  • Ornaments and tree decorations — A decorated tree can be alluring to cats and kittens, and dogs and puppies may mistake the ornaments for chew toys. Sharp ornaments or strings such as tinsel or garland are especially dangerous to pets. If ingested, they may cut though the tissues, resulting in emergency surgery for your pet.
  • Cut evergreen trees — Dry, sharp, pine needles are irritating to a pet’s intestines if swallowed. Cats and kittens can knock a tree over if they decide to climb. Use only “pet safe” additives to the Christmas tree water. Confining pets away from the tree is best.
  • Electrical cords — Puppies and kittens love to chew on dangling charger or extension cords. Enjoy holiday lights, but keep pets away. Chewing on electrical cords can result in burns or shock, and a trip to the pet emergency hospital.
  • Batteries — Many holiday toys or decorations contain batteries. If pets decide to chew them, batteries can release acid that causes chemical burns, and will necessitate veterinary treatment.
  • Liquid potpourri Cats may be tempted by liquid potpourri, but keep them away, as the ingredients are toxic, and can cause thermal burns. 
  • Toxic holiday plants Mistletoe and holly are off-limits for pets. One bite of a lily can cause severe, life-threatening kidney damage in cats. Christmas cactus and poinsettias cause less drastic problems, but keeping pets away from all holiday plants is safest.
  • Fire hazards — Luminaries, candles, fireplaces, and firepits provide a warm holiday glow, but any open flame is a burn risk when excited pets are around. Battery operated votives, kept out of pets’ reach, are a safer alternative. 

Pets and holiday food dangers

To avoid an urgent care trip with your pet, ensure they cannot eat these holiday foods:

  • Raw and undercooked foods — Always practice good hygiene, and keep pets away from any raw foods that can carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. Remember that pets may consider the trash their buffet.
  • Bones — Chewing on bones can fracture dogs’ teeth, especially the young and the old. Poultry bones especially can splinter, and puncture or damage your pet’s esophagus, stomach, or intestine.
  • Fatty or unusual foods — Pets who eat fatty foods, or any unusual food, especially in large amounts, are at risk for vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a potentially life-threatening disease that requires aggressive treatment and intensive care. Rather than butter or gravy, treat your pets with their usual food. If you must give them human food, small amounts of unseasoned green beans, carrots, or sweet potatoes are safe for pets.
  • Toxic holiday treats — Many holiday treats that people enjoy are toxic to pets, including chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many foods, also is toxic to pets, causing problems with blood sugar. Call us and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately, if you think your pet may have eaten a toxic food.

Pets and holiday activity dangers

  • Fireworks — Many people ring in the New Year with loud fireworks, which can cause stress and injury to pets. Talk to us if you have pet noise phobia concerns.
  • Alcohol — Pets can be poisoned by a relatively small amount of alcohol, and can be tempted by mixers such as egg nog, so keep pets away.
  • Long walks and hikes — Many people hit the trails during holiday breaks. Ensure your pet has a safe harness, plenty of fresh water, and no health concerns that make hiking a risk.
  • Travel — Many pets find travel stressful. See us about treatment options, such as calming ThunderShirts (i.e., anxiety wraps), natural supplements, and anti-anxiety medications. We would love to have your pet board with us while you travel. We know how to best meet their needs for both veterinary care and social time.

Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic is your partner in keeping your pet safe, and caring for your pet when problems arise. Keep our tips in mind this holiday season, so that unlike Simba, your pets won’t face an emergency.