According to the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) of the American Society for the Protection and care of Animals (ASPCA), the holidays are often exceptionally busy. They receive numerous emergency calls to help poisoned pets.
But your pets are not just in danger of being poisoned, hazards like blockage of the GI tract, contact with harmful plants, stomach ailments, and anxiety-triggered IBS also surge during the season.
You are not helpless. You can learn about the most common hazards and take steps to prevent them. Below are some of the most common holiday illnesses that affect pets and what you can do about them.
Upset stomachs are perhaps the most common illnesses that pets experience during the holiday season. During this time of the year, your home gets more visitors, meaning your dog could get plenty of table scraps to eat. Friendly dogs that don’t know how to turn down an offer for table scraps could develop various stomach ailments. They also risk being poisoned.
Human food often contains high carbohydrate content and in some cases, components like yeast. If your pup is enjoying the scraps, they will likely experience abnormal gas as an early sign. Although there are various ways to give your puppy gas relief, you should ideally stop it from taking table scraps because a worse thing could happen. Alternatively, train your dog to eat only from its bowl.
If you plan to take off for a few days during the holiday season, your furry buddy may get IBS. Your dog could respond to your absence by toileting or vomiting unusually and in undesignated spots - separation anxiety.
Unfortunately, separation anxiety does not have a quick-fix solution. But you can start with simple and fun mental remedies like regular exercise and socializing.
Poisoning by Chocolate and Other (Human) Foodstuffs
Chocolate is by far the most common toxin ingested by dogs during the holiday season. Chocolate poisoning stems from behaviors we have already mentioned the point above - consuming table scraps.
Chocolate contains theobromine. It is a stimulant that resembles caffeine and is toxic to dogs. Theobromine is so toxic that if a dog ingests small quantities, it can trigger reactions like vomiting and diarrhea. Higher doses of the substance can cause more complications. So, keep your dog away from gift boxes, chocolate chip cookies, and anything that may contain chocolate.
Other human foods that are popular during the holidays and toxic to pets include
- Alcohol - in your eggnog is delicious but poison for your dog.
- Fruitcakes - may seem harmless, but they contain raisins which are harmful to dogs.
- Artificial sweeteners - in baked foods and candy could cause liver ailments in dogs.
Allergies to Harmful Plants and Insects
Taking your dog out during the holidays exposes your pet to unfamiliar environments. You could expose your dog to popular decorative plants like Poinsettias and Mistletoe. Both plants are excellent for decorating homes during the holiday season. But they are toxic to dogs.
Poinsettias contain a milky sap that can irritate your dog’s mouth if they eat it. On the other hand, mistletoe is toxic to dogs. If your dog ingests small quantities, it could end up with severe diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty in breathing. If the dog takes in large amounts, it could be fatal.
There is also the possibility of your dog getting stung or bitten by an insect. Recognizing these insect bites will help you determine the next steps to treat your dog.
Blockages of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract
We often buy decorations like lights, candles, and toys to fill our homes during the holidays. Some of the decorations look sumptuous, and your dog could swallow them. Keep your pet away from places that may contain the following decorations:
- Electric lights
You might be planning to have a live Christmas tree indoors during this holiday season. That means you will also need some preservatives for the tree. Unfortunately, dogs find these preservatives tasty. Many are unable to resist and end up taking a few licks. The same applies to antifreeze, especially in cold areas. Antifreeze can cause organ failure and ultimately be fatal.
If you have such chemicals at your place, remember they could be toxic to your pet. Store them far away from the pet’s reach.
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Holidays may mean more outdoor playtime for you and your four-legged companion. But keep an eye on the thermometer or listen to weather updates for winter storms. When the temperatures fall below 45 F, some dogs would feel uncomfortable. Once the temperatures hit 20 F, avoid spending time outdoors with your dog because of the danger of hypothermia and frostbite.
A final word, Prepare for Emergencies
As you plan to make merry during the holidays, remember to take precautions against common holiday illnesses. Include the following details:
- Tell your friends and visitors not to feed your pet any table scraps.
- Chat with the vet about possible ailments and how to prevent them.
- Ask the vet for tips on how to do first aid and the nearest emergency centers.
- Keep the numbers of the emergency centers posted so that anyone can see and make the call in case anything happens.