Holiday Pet Care Tips

Keeping pets safe during the holidays

Food, Alcohol, Chocolate & Treats

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Candy & Fruitcake

Keep holiday treats and candies out of your pet's reach; they can make your pet quite sick.  Candy wrappers can cause also digestive upset if eaten.  Fruitcake contains ingredients like grapes, raisins, currants and alcohol — keep away from pets.

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Alcohol

Rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, alcohol affects pets quickly. Ingestion can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature, as well as seizures and respiratory failure.

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Chocolate

Chocolate, especially unsweetened, dark, bittersweet and baking varieties, can be toxic, especially for dogs, who often like it. If your dog eats chocolate, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately. Symptoms of toxicity include excitement, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, muscle spasms and seizures.

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Xylitol

Keep gum, candy and breath fresheners containing xylitol away from dogs. Eating even a small amount of xylitol can cause a dog’s insulin to surge, and blood sugar can drop quickly and dangerously. Liver damage has also been linked to of xylitol. If your dog ingests xylitol, contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately.

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Other foods

Coffee grounds, tea, alcohol, hops, salt, onions and onion powder, grapes and raisins, avocado, garlic, and macadamia nuts can all be harmful.

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Leftovers

Don't feed pets holiday turkey or chicken, as the bones or fragments can lodge in the throat, stomach, or intestinal tract. Fatty leftovers such as skin can inflame the pancreas and cause pancreatitis, which can be fatal.

Miscellaneous

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Guests

Pets can become overexcited, confused or frightened by visitors. Keep them in a quiet space. When guests are over, watch the doors and make sure your pets have ID tags and/or microchips in case they do get out. Remind guests that your normally friendly pet may need to be left alone.

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Christmas Tree

Make sure your tree is secure. Avoid adding preservatives, aspirin or sugar to the water, or keep it covered. Keep areas around the tree and wreaths tidy — sharp pine needles can puncture.

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Decorations

Keep items such as breakable ornaments and dreidels, tinsel, string and ribbon out of reach of pets. Ingestion of any of these items can cause serious internal injuries, or worse.

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Light strands, loose wires and electric cords can be a serious hazard, especially for chewing puppies.

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Snow globes may contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). As little as one teaspoon when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two by a dog (depending on his/her size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy.

Candles

Never leave candles unattended, especially around puppies and kittens.

Plants

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Holly

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The spiny, leathery leaves of Christmas or English holly can do real damage to pets’ stomach and intestines. The berries have mildly toxic properties, but are fairly tolerated by most.

Mistletoe & Poinsettia

While not toxic, both poinsettia plants and American mistletoe leaves or berries can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Keeping them safe and warm

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Shelter

Dogs and cats who sleep outdoors should have snug, dry, draft-free places to sleep. The floor should be raised to keep away cold and moisture. Ideally, the shelter should be heated, insulated, and enclosed to keep the elements out. During extreme weather, pets should stay inside. If your pet is shivering or refuses to play, the animal is too cold and should come inside.

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Diet & Water

A high-quality food with adequate protein and extra fat is required for animals who spend time in the cold. Your vet may also recommend a vitamin supplement. Water may freeze outdoors, so provide fresh, warm water in a large, deep, plastic bowl throughout the day.

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Exercise

Smaller or older dogs should wear sweaters for walks, which should be brief.

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Paws

If snow and ice clumps form on your dog's paws, wipe between each toe with a warm, wet cloth. Salt used for deicing can cause paws to dry and crack. Soak or wash paws in warm water and dry thoroughly after walks where salt is used.

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Household Danger

Antifreeze can have deadly consequences. The ethylene glycol in antifreeze tastes sweet and appeals to cats and dogs alike. Just licking antifreeze off his or her paws can kill a cat and just a quarter cup can kill a medium-size dog.

Do not leave antifreeze unattended or allow it to spill. Consider using nontoxic antifreeze with a bittering agent to thwart its appeal. If you see your pet in contact with any antifreeze, immediately take him/her to the veterinarian. The sooner treatment is started, the better.

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Car Motors

A great risk for cats who sleep outside, warmth from engines draws cats, and they can be severely injured or killed when caught in the fan belt. Always check under the hood for animals and honk before starting your car.

Learn more at OregonVMA.org.