Healthy Holidays for Your Pets

by Dr. Seth Oberschlake

Winter holiday seasons are often filled with wonderful memories with family, friends and pets alike. There isn’t much better than dressing up my dog in an elf costume, but that’s just me. To make sure it’s a season to remember, let us go over some things to avoid this winter season. This will by no means be an exhaustive list, but I will try to highlight some of the more important hazards to avoid.  

The top holiday food item to avoid giving pets, of course, is chocolate. The higher the cocoa percentage, the worse it is for pets. For dogs especially, avoid anything with xylitol. This sweetener can be particularly dangerous, causing rapid low blood sugar and liver failure. High-fat foods, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, grapes/raisins, and rising bread dough are also things to avoid. As much as dogs love them, I would avoid offering leftover bones as they can potentially cause obstructions and fractured teeth.

Many holiday plants could cause gastrointestinal upset, but one in particular is critical to avoid for our feline friends. Some members of the Lily (Liliaceae) family have the potential to be fatal with  ingestion of as little as  one leaf. Kidney failure is associated with Easter, tiger, Japanese show, rubrum, day and numerous lily hybrids.  

Just like we do, cats and dogs love playing with new toys. Make sure they are appropriate for them and are used under supervision. Tinsel, string, ribbon, and other linear objects can be particularly troublesome if ingested. Watch out for chewing on batteries, salt dough ornaments, and unattended candles. Limit access to wires and string lights especially for pets that love to chew. Many essential oils can also  be toxic. Cats are generally more sensitive than dogs.

If something happens, when in doubt, call your veterinary clinic, referral center and/or animal poison control.  Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 are available 24/7/365!

Have a blessed, happy, and safe holiday season!