For many people, decking the halls and preparing festive feasts are favorite holiday traditions. Still, many of these customs can be downright dangerous to pets. From toxic foods to hazardous decor, pet owners should take caution when preparing for the holiday season. Read on for five pet injuries that veterinarians commonly see this time of year. 

Pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas can occur for a variety of reasons in pets. One of the chief causes of this painful disorder is the ingestion of fatty foods. Not surprisingly, pancreatitis is exceedingly common during the holiday season. So, before slipping your pet a serving of turkey and gravy this November, remember that pancreatitis is a severe and life-threatening disease that can mimic other, milder gastrointestinal illnesses. Monitor for the following signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hunched appearance
  • Bloated or distended abdomen
  • Inappetence
  • Weakness or lethargy

Electrocution or burns

Some of the most popular holiday decor can be the most hazardous. While string lights may seem like the perfect accompaniment to a Christmas tree or mantle, they also mimic tempting toys for cats. Chewing on lights or other appealing electrical ornaments can lead to oral burns or, worse, a lethal electric shock. Menorahs and other candlelit decor pose fire risks to both pets and the home. If possible, refrain from using these items in homes with pets, or place them on sturdy, elevated surfaces out of your pet’s reach and don’t leave your pet unattended with them. 

Gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction

Obstruction can occur along the GI tract when pets swallow foreign objects or items that their bodies cannot digest properly. This is a common ailment around the holidays and often requires surgery. Younger pets, who often explore with their mouths, may be more prone to GI obstruction. Some examples of problematic holiday items include: 

  • Ribbons, tinsel, and other stringy objects can lead to a linear foreign body obstruction. This happens when these objects are ingested and propelled along the intestinal tract, causing the bowel to bunch and possibly tear. This type of obstruction is particularly common in cats who are attracted to long, string-like objects. 
  • Meat bones are common holiday treats for dogs, but they can cause serious gastrointestinal problems. Large pieces of bone can easily obstruct the GI tract or become lodged in the palate of the mouth. Giving your dog a bone can also lead to bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and other unpleasant symptoms. 
  • Yeast dough often expands in the warm, moist stomach environment. This can lead to painful bloating and possible torsion or obstruction. Additionally, the gastric juices may ferment the dough, putting pets at risk for intoxication or alcohol poisoning. 

Toxicities

While many rich, fatty holiday foods can cause gastrointestinal and pancreatic illnesses, some are, in fact, toxic to our furry friends. Even some common holiday plants may be harmful to a curious pet. The following foods and plants are potentially toxic to dogs and cats and should be avoided:

  • Garlic and onions — Plants in the onion family can lead to anemia in pets who eat them.
  • Grapes and raisins — These fruits may cause kidney failure in small animals. 
  • Chocolate — Containing two toxic substances—caffeine and theobromine—chocolate ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, panting, restlessness, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous for dogs.
  • Nuts — Nuts, especially walnuts and macadamia nuts, are high in fat and can cause gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis. 
  • Xylitol — This sugar substitute can cause dangerously low blood sugar levels and is found in many baked goods and candies. It may even be hiding in your favorite peanut butter brand.
  • Mistletoe and holly — These festive plants can cause nausea, vomiting, and even cardiac problems. 
  • Lilies — Cats are especially sensitive to this plant and can suffer severe and potentially fatal kidney disease. 

Contact our veterinary team during clinic hours if you believe your pet is ill or injured. For help after hours, contact 504-779-2015 or your closest emergency veterinary hospital as soon as you can.