My (Perry Jameson) favorite holiday song is Andy Williams version of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” With all the parties, decorations, days off from work and family time, it always has been for me.
My pets get to join in the festivities, too. I do not like to let my patients know this, but my pets get a few treats from the table. The cats love all the decorations that come out this time of year and usually can be found underneath the tree curled up on the tree skirt.
All these changes in the house and special foods do have risks, however. When something happens, it no longer is a wonderful time of the year.
Here are some dangers to be aware of to avoid a trip to the ER during the holidays.
We all bring out special foods, and usually a lot of them. My dog Flipper can somehow sneak food off the counter. I do not know how he does it, but we have had to adjust where we place food to keep it from him. The most common foods causing ER visits this time of year are chocolate, fatty foods, bones and certain nuts.
Most chocolate contains some fats. Fatty foods can result in GI distress, which manifests as vomiting and diarrhea. This may be mild and self-limiting or severe enough to require several days in the hospital.
The darker the chocolate the more likely the toxins, caffeine and methylxanthine may cause a problem. Hyperactivity, seizures and arrhythmias are possible if enough is eaten, so check with a veterinarian if concerned and they can tell you what to do.
Most of the best tasting foods have a lot of fat, too. If pets eat too much, it will, at best, just cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in the worst cases, it can cause pancreatitis, which can be life-threatening.
The bones in most meat when cooked become brittle. This can cause razor sharp edges to form that can damage the mouth, esophagus or stomach.
I can remember a Christmas getting a call from the ER doctor needing me to come and remove a bone stuck in a dog’s esophagus. Back bones in particular can become wedged in the esophagus requiring endoscopy or, in the worst cases, surgery to remove.
Certain nuts can be toxic to dogs as well. Macadamia nuts and walnuts (especially if molded) may result in weakness or seizures.
My dad used to coat our tree in tinsel. The reflection of the light on the tinsel was beautiful. Even though this is a special memory for me, my kids will have to miss out on this one.
After seeing multiple cats come in for vomiting after ingesting tinsel, it has been outlawed in our home. Often by the time we get them to surgery, the intestines have been twisted or even cut by the tinsel, requiring major reconstruction.
Young kittens and puppies love the cords and lights. If bitten, however, the electric shock can cause burns in their mouths or, even worse, life-threatening pulmonary edema.
Glass or metal ornaments can cause cuts in the mouth or GI obstructions, so we put them high up on our tree.
Last year, our big fluffy (I do not like to say fat) cat, Winky jumped up on a side table. A few minutes later, we no longer smelled the candy cane candle, instead, it wasthe unmistakable odor of burning hair. She had walked close to the candle and singed some fur.
It could have been worse for her or our home.
It is tempting to make a ribbon collar for your pet. Unless it can be easily torn off, however, it is a choking hazard should the ribbon get caught on anything.
Also, pets love to play with the ribbon. They use their mouths to play, so swallowing ribbon is not uncommon.
Just like tinsel, it can cause intestinal obstruction and injuries requiring major surgery.
We like to decorate indoors with plants: Christmas trees, holly, poinsettia and mistletoe.
The tree, holly and poinsettia are not toxic but can cause GI irritation that result in vomiting and diarrhea.
Mistletoe, however, is toxic and can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behavior, hallucinations and death when ingested. In my home, I keep this up high where pets cannot reach it and where my wife will pass under it frequently with me.
When you have pets, you have to modify the celebration so they can enjoy it as well but not get ill. Make it the most wonderful time of the year by being safe with decorations and food.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.