The holiday season is around the corner, and soon we’ll be trimming our turkeys and decking the halls. The holidays are a time to spend with family, and, of course, this includes four-legged family members. However, the holiday hustle and bustle can be hazardous to your furry family’s health. Nothing ruins the magic of the season like having to rush to the animal emergency hospital with a sick or injured pet, so as you’re making your holiday plans, consider how they could impact your pet. 

Here are the most common pet emergencies that happen during the holidays. Knowing what could go wrong will go a long way toward preventing mishaps. 

He ate what? Part 1

If there is a common theme among the fall and winter holidays, it’s food. No matter which holidays your family celebrates, they are sure to include food, and plenty of it. And, where there’s food, you can guarantee there will be four-legged helpers ready to perform their cleanup-crew duties.

While the extra food does not do our waistlines any favors, for our pets, holiday feasts can be more troublesome. Any change in diet can cause gastroenteritis (i.e., inflammation of the stomach and intestines), so pets who gobble up decadent holiday feasts are at risk of developing gastrointestinal problems, with signs such as diarrhea and vomiting. 

Foods that are especially rich and fatty can cause pancreatitis, (i.e., pancreatic inflammation) in dogs. Some cases can be managed medically at home, but because pancreatitis can be life-threatening, some patients will require hospitalization for treatment. That will certainly throw a major kink in your holiday celebrations. 

He ate what? Part 2

The other fun part about the holidays, aside from all the feasting, is the festive decor that puts everyone in the holiday spirit. Houses are transformed during the holidays—once-bare tabletops are festooned with cornucopias, candles, and candies, and empty corners contain Christmas trees and beautifully wrapped packages that beckon curious kitties and puppies. 

Some pets can’t resist exploring, which can lead to the common holiday emergency clinical diagnosis of “foreign-body ingestion.” This occurs when pets eat things that are not meant to be eaten, like a child’s toy, socks, golf balls, tree ornaments, or tinsel. You name it—some dogs will eat it. But, inedible objects don’t break down into smaller pieces, and some objects may become trapped in the stomach, unable to pass into the intestines, while some objects may pass into the intestines and become lodged there. Intestinal obstructions are a serious concern because of the chance of intestinal rupture, that likely will require surgery. 

Cats cannot resist strings, yarn, ribbons, and tinsel, which they often accidentally ingest during play. Once ingested, these linear foreign bodies can become lodged at one end in the gastrointestinal tract. While the bowels try to move the obstruction along, the string acts like a saw, cutting the intestinal tissue and potentially causing a bowel rupture.

He ate what? Part 3

So many holiday emergencies involve food—in this case, food that’s fit for those with two legs, but not those with four legs. You no doubt know that chocolate is bad—and can be deadly—for dogs, but many other holiday goodies also are not good for pets, including:

  • Grapes and raisins
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast in bread dough
  • Macadamia nuts 
  • Foods or sweets containing the sugar substitute xylitol
  • Salt-dough ornaments

He ate what? Part 4

Christmas lights, train villages, electric candles, and menorahs mean extra wires and extension cords. Pets who chew on electric cords can sustain serious burns to their delicate mouth tissues, and, worse, can be electrocuted. Invest in plastic covers so pets cannot access these temptations and end up in the animal emergency hospital.

While we’d love to see you and your pets during the holidays, we’d rather the visit be social and  not because your pet is sick or injured. Keep your pets happy and healthy this holiday season, and ring in the new year together at home rather than in our animal emergency hospital.