Holidays bring families and friends together, but don't forget to watch out for your four-legged family members. Holidays can also mean potential hazards for pets. Table foods, ornaments, and other holiday items can be harmful to cats and dogs. Every year veterinarians at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Clinics see an increase in a variety of digestive diseases during the holiday season.
Table food can cause dogs to suffer from acute gastroenteritis (an inflammation of the stomach and intestines) or pancreatitis. In both diseases, dogs experience severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and listlessness. Bones may lead to obstructions in the esophagus, the stomach, or the intestine and lead to severe digestive signs. Furthermore, grapes, raisins and onions are foods that dogs and cats should not receive. They are toxic to pets and can cause potentially fatal diseases, such as acute kidney failure, anemia, or seizures. Most ornamental plants (e.g., poinsettias, mistletoes, holly, etc.) can cause stomach upset.
The holidays are a great time to offer, cook with and enjoy chocolate. However, chocolate is very toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurologic disease including vomiting, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, overexcitation, and seizures. The required treatment can be expensive, therefore you should limit the risk of exposure in the home environment.
Decorating usually involves more electrical cords, so please check to make sure that your pets are not chewing on them, as electric shock may have devastating consequences. Also, some pets may try to eat batteries, so please make sure that they are put away safely.
Candy wrappers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or ribbons can lead to serious problems if eaten by dogs or cats. Tinsel is particularly enticing to cats. When ingested in sufficient quantities, it binds into a rope that can cause severe intestinal obstruction and require surgical treatment. Any small decoration or toy poses a swallowing hazard. If a child can choke on small toys or parts, then so can the family dog or cat.
The weather in December and January can be quite chilly even in Louisiana. So, please remember to bring in your outside pets overnight if a hard freeze is forecast.
If your pet becomes sick or if you think that it may have ingested something harmful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Delays in seeking veterinary help may seriously complicate the problem. If your pet requires medical care after-hours, you can bring your pet to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive; the hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and remains open even during holidays. Please call 225-578-9600 or go to www.lsu.edu/vetmed for more information about the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Please help make this a safe and happy holiday season for all of the members of your family.