SEATTLE, Wash. – The turkey’s in the oven and guests are on the way — the last thing you need now is an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital.
Unfortunately, the holiday season tends to be a busy time at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospitals, according to Dr. Beth Davidow, medical director and board-certified specialist in critical care and emergency medicine. She said holiday emergencies are typically caused by three main culprits: food, travel and decorations.
“This should be a fun and enjoyable time of year for everyone,” Davidow said. “By taking some basic precautions, you can make sure your pets have safe and healthy holidays, too.”
While it may be tempting to let pets partake in the family feast, bones, turkey skin and other table scraps can cause problems, Davidow warns. Pancreatitis, a gastrointestinal upset caused by ingesting too much fat, is one of the most common problems she sees during holiday time.
Holiday cooking may also include foods that are toxic to pets. Keep dogs and cats away from chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and uncooked bread dough. Be especially vigilant about xylitol, a sweetener found in sugar-free gums and candies. The substance, which is extremely toxic to pets, is also used for baking and can even be found in some brands of peanut butter. If you suspect your pet has ingested xylitol, get to an emergency animal hospital as quickly as possible, Davidow said. And be sure to keep handy the number for the ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline (888.426.4435).
Planning to bring Fido or Fluffy when visiting relatives? If you’re going to fly, you’ll need a health certificate from your veterinarian issued within 10 days of travel. Davidow said she’s seen a lot of panicky travelers in her ER, hoping to get a last-minute certificate.
If your pet is on medications, be sure to bring them with you on your trip. It’s also helpful to have a copy of your pet’s medical records with you.
Take a few minutes to research emergency veterinary hospitals near your destination.
“If you end up going to an ER in a different town, it’s so much easier if the veterinarian knows what the underlying issues may be,” Davidow said.
While many people have heard that poinsettias are dangerous to pets, Davidow said recent studies have shown the plants cause irritation but aren’t toxic. A far bigger threat: the lilies included in your Christmas bouquet. “Those can kill cats because they cause acute kidney failure,” Davidow said.
Other potential pitfalls are tinsel and ribbon, which can be very harmful if ingested. Also be sure to prevent pets from chewing on electrical cords. At the very least, this can cause burns in the mouth, Davidow said. It could also create non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs, which can be fatal if left untreated.
“If your dog or cat starts showing any signs of distress, be sure to get to an emergency hospital right away,” Davidow said. “An early vet visit is usually a lot cheaper than a late visit.”