Many people are aware that poinsettia can be toxic to dogs and cats, but did you know that many other decorative plants can cause health issues if ingested? Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly and Christmas cactus can all cause stomach upset and diarrhea if eaten. The leaves and flowers of the Amaryllis plant can also cause gastrointestinal upset, but ingesting the bulbs can lead to cardiovascular problems and seizures. Lilies, though not a traditional winter plant, can be deadly even if only small amounts are ingested by cats.
Other potential health hazards for our pets include gastrointestinal illness from eating table foods. Though it is fun to spoil our pets by giving them some of our traditional holiday meals, too much of a yummy thing can be deadly. Eating fatty foods like processed meats or chicken/turkey skin can cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms of pancreatitis include lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody). Pancreatitis can also predispose our pets to diabetes in the future. Ingestion of onions can cause severe anemia in both dogs and cats. Do not feed table foods that contain onions or that have been cooked with onions.
Remember to keep potentially hazardous decorations and ornaments away from your pets. Tinsel and ribbons can cut through the intestinal lining if ingested and may require extensive surgery to repair. Glass ornaments can be broken, eaten or stepped on, potentially causing severe lacerations.
Winter holidays are a popular travel time for pets and their people. Remember that health certificates are required for most interstate travel. This is a document signed by your veterinarian ensuring that your pet is healthy enough to travel and is not bringing potentially harmful diseases or parasites to the destination. Usually a rabies vaccine and some type of flea preventative is required for interstate travel. Remember to keep up with your flea/tick and heartworm preventives even through the winter months. Fleas can still live inside where it is nice and warm, and many parasite eggs can continue to live in the soil and mulch around our houses.
If you have pets that live outdoors, provide a shelter that protects against wind and precipitation. Always make sure that fresh water is available and that the water bowls are not covered with ice.
Have fun with your pets this holiday season, and remember to keep them safe, happy and warm. Happy holidays!
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