It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But it can also be a dangerous time for our pets.
The holiday season is a busy time for veterinary clinics and emergency rooms, said Dr. Ellen Buerkett, owner and emergency veterinarian at Beacon Emergency Veterinary Hospital in St. Petersburg. This is especially true in Florida, with snowbirds coming down with their furry friends.
Here’s some advice to help keep your beloved pets safe this season.
Watch what they eat
It can be tempting to share a bite of something tasty with your pet. But new foods — especially dishes that are fatty — can wreak havoc on their digestive system. Buerkett’s hospital commonly sees cases of vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis during this time of year.
“The biggest thing is unlike ourselves, who eat a variety of different foods, dogs and cats are really just used to eating their kibble day in and out,” Buerkett said. “And for that reason, it’s really easy for them to develop secondary issues. Even if it might seem like not a big deal — a little bit of turkey here, that kind of thing — in a small pet or even a big one that’s not used to a lot of variety, it can make a big difference really fast.”
Avoid toxic-for-dogs items like grapes, onions and garlic, plus anything that could be difficult to digest, like seeds. And make sure to pass the word to everyone at the table. An extra bite here and there adds up.
“When everybody’s thinking that and there’s 20 people in your household, sometimes it can be more than we think,” Buerkett said.
Have a backup space
With guests coming into town and other distractions, it’s easier for accidents to happen. You don’t want your curious dog to get into the groceries or your cat to run outside while the door is open.
It can be helpful to assign someone to keep an eye on the animals, Buerkett said. But if it’s a busy day, using a kennel or putting your pet in a safe space or room can help.
Be mindful of decorations
As you are decorating the house, be extra mindful of items that your pet might want to play with or eat. Certain decorations can turn into choking hazards or cause gastrointestinal issues that require surgical intervention.
“Especially things that are linear, like string lights or tinsel, can be very dangerous around pets,” Buerkett said.
Secure larger decorations, like trees, to make sure they won’t fall over.
“All of these things are fun and exciting and new for us, and they’re fun and exciting and new for our pet, so they’re going to want to investigate,” she said. “They’re kind of like toddlers — they like investigating things with their mouth as well.”
If all else fails, don’t hesitate to contact your vet’s office or a 24/7 veterinary emergency hospital. It’s what they’re there for.