Animals of all shapes, sizes and species celebrate the winter season with us. Whether you’re warming up by the fireside or wrapping gifts, chances are they’re not far behind, ready to lend a helping hand.
However, long-standing holiday traditions and activities often present unexpected risks to our beloved pets. Molly Racette, Clinical Assistant Professor at UW School of Veterinary Medicine, shares her thoughts on some common factors and concerns that the UW Veterinary Care emergency and intensive care team often see this time of year. . Racette is a specialty veterinarian who graduated from the board of directors of the American College of Veterinary Emergency Critical Care.
Seasonal plants and decorations
Animals are naturally curious and tend to seek out eye-catching foreign objects by biting and tasting. However, consuming certain seasonal plants and decorations increases the risk of gastrointestinal obstruction for dogs and cats, which can be life threatening and may require surgery.
âCertain holiday plants – such as holly, mistletoe and lilies – can cause toxicity,â Racette explains. Cats, and sometimes dogs, also ingest decorations like garlands, ribbons, ornaments, and paper products. Additionally, wires and lights can cause electric shocks if animals chew on them.
It’s relatively well known that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but people underestimate the length of an animal’s nose to find it. “Dogs will frequently find chocolate in wrappers wrapped under the tree and serve themselves,” Racette explains. âThe packaging also presents a risk. “
Raisins, raisins, and macadamia nuts are also dangerous. Specifically, foods without sugar can have a significant and negative impact on an animal. “Xylitol, a harmless sugar substitute for humans, can cause hypoglycemia and liver toxicity in dogs,” adds Racette. “And dogs that eat too much food they’re not used to – like table scraps or bones – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis.”
âYou don’t want your pet to be the one rushing into the clinic and being placed at the head of the triage line. “
Anxious pets can find it difficult to cope with large gatherings of people. âNot all animals are comfortable with visiting friends and family. It’s best to have a safe room where your pets can retreat if they want to escape, âadvises Racette. âIt’s also important to make sure pets can’t get out of the door when people come in and out! “
And while your guests might want to succumb to your pet’s begging behavior, encourage them to avoid giving away human food or treats.
While a furry friend might seem like a wonderful gift, Racette points out that pets are not present. âUnless the family decides to reunite a pet, pets should never be a holiday gift,â says Racette. âMany well-meaning people buy pets for loved ones who decide when they don’t have the time or the capacity to care for a new pet. “
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), approximately 6.5 million pets are turned over to community animal shelters nationwide, including during and right after the holidays.
No one wants to spend time in the ER, especially during a season dedicated to well-being and happiness. However, many primary care vets are closed or unable to see patients around Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays. This puts a strain on emergency personnel and the services they provide.
âPlease understand that the veterinary staff are overwhelmed with cases and are doing their best to meet the needs of all pets in need of care,â says Racette. âA little kindness, compassion and patience will go a long way. Be prepared to wait and understand that you don’t want your pet to be the one rushing to the clinic and ending up in front of the triage line.
If you need to request or refer emergency animal care to UW Veterinary Care, please review emergency hours and call ahead (for small animals, 608-263-7600; for large animals , 608-263-6300) to check availability. Hospital emergency status and capacity change frequently due to staff shortages and space constraints.