FloridaWild Vet Hospital

December is Holiday Awareness Month

Preparing for the upcoming holiday season can be fun and exciting. But it can also be hectic; rushing around doing the last minute shopping, housecleaning, cooking and baking and putting up decorations, wrapping gifts while preparing for company.

Sydney (a FloridaWild patient) enjoying the presents under the Christmas tree

While meeting friends and other people we may never have met can be delightful, at the same time this can be quite demanding. If we get overwhelmed, you can only imagine what our pets might be experiencing. With all the uncustomary activity and changes in schedules, it can be quite unnerving. While the holidays are fun, at the same time they can be just as stressful for our beloved fur-family members as they are for us.

Since most of us consider our pets to be family members, we want to keep them happy and healthy. During this festive season, our daily schedules frequently change and streams of visitors may come and go; all of which can be quite upsetting for our fur-kids. It is very important to keep our pets’ schedules as normal as possible; making sure they are fed their regular diet, and getting their necessary exercise and playtime.

In order to help make the holidays fun and safe for our pets, we gathered up some helpful tips and suggestions to share with our pet-loving readers.

Holiday decorations are delightful to the eye and it’s critical to make sure they are pet-safe. To help prevent accidents, to keep the Holiday tree from tipping, it must be securely anchored. The water in the tree holder might contain fertilizers so make sure it is covered to prevent your pets from drinking it.

Avoid adorning the tree with tinsel icicles. They can be ingested accidentally, causing major gastric disturbances and obstructions leading to an unwanted emergency room visit. Substitute with safe, unbreakable tree decorations; keeping those heirloom glass ornaments for the top of the tree. Use artificial mistletoe and holly instead of the real ones since if these plants are ingested they are highly toxic to pets. Although Poinsettias are not toxic, if ingested they can cause gastric upset.

Leo (a FloridaWild patient) sporting his Santa shirt

Since our pets enjoy a treat of a small piece of white meat turkey, roast beef or ham, some folks share a bit of our holiday meals with our pets. FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital Veterinarian, Sarina Barbara explains why owners should be cautious about feeding holiday fare to pets.

“Veterinarians see a high rate of pancreatitis and gastroenteritis in pets during the holidays. This is mostly due to being fed rich foods high in fat and/or being fed new foods that a pet’s digestive system is not accustomed to. Pancreatitis is a potentially life threatening illness that can be devastating for owners whose pets experience it. The main cause of pancreatitis in dogs and cats is being fed foods high in fat. It is common for house guests to sneak a small amount of their meal to the family dog or kitty,” says Dr. Sarina Barbara; a very wise veterinarian at FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital.

Dr. Barbara adds, “If all 20 guests share a small amount with the family dog it adds up and can overload their system. Gastroenteritis is simply a big word for an upset tummy. Vomiting and diarrhea are the main symptoms. Pancreatitis also presents itself with vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog or cat develops vomiting or diarrhea after a holiday gathering I recommend getting them checked out by a vet so we can make sure there is nothing more serious going on than just an upset stomach. And if it does turn out to be a simple gastroenteritis, there are things we can do to support your pet and help them recover in a timely manner.”

“I encourage pet owners who plan on hosting a holiday gathering to ask their guests to refrain from sharing their food with the dog(s)/cat(s). That doesn’t mean that our pets can’t enjoy some holiday treats. Examples of foods that should be okay to share with your dog are cooked vegetables and for dogs and cats, lean meats such as fish and turkey. Separate out some of the vegetables prior to adding other ingredients such as butter, cream, seasonings, etc. Remember to always offer these treats in moderation. Most vegetables and lean meats are healthy for pets, but too much can cause stomach upset”, Dr. Barbara advises.

Dr. Barbara strongly cautions owners about the foods, beverages and ingredients that should always be strictly avoided for both cats and dogs. They are:
1. Raisins/Grapes
2. Onions
3. Bones
4. Sweets (Including artificial)
5. Creams/butters/fats/oils
6. Hot spices
7. Coffee
8. Alcoholic Beverages
9. Chocolate

Dr. Barbara adds, “Toxicities and foreign body obstructions are another common issue seen during the holidays. Dogs and cats are curious creatures and if they have access to something appealing they will generally take advantage of the opportunity. If your pet ingests something they shouldn’t have, please contact your veterinarian immediately. If this unfortunate event occurs after hours, I encourage you to call 1-(888)426-4435 ASPCA pet-care animal-poison-control to get professional advice on whether or not your pet should be evaluated at an Emergency Veterinary hospital.”

There is a nominal fee for the call, however assistance is offered for the duration of the episode being handled. Using these tips can help assure owners and their beloved fur-kids a very happy and safe holiday season.

We at FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital wish all of our clients and their pets a very Happy Holidays.

By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)

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