Each autumn makes me wonder how the year could have passed so quickly. The veterinarian in me worries about what the holiday season may bring for pets.

The first concern is holiday safety for any pet, particularly dogs. Many people know how toxic chocolate can be to dogs. Did you know that the commonly used sweetener xylitol is also highly toxic? Raisins, grapes, onions, and garlic can be poisonous, just to name a few food items of concern. Alcohol is another danger for your pets. Make sure children are informed not to give candy to pets.

Plants and decorations associated with the holidays present their own set of dangers. While many commonly displayed plants are toxic, decorations can also be risky. Dogs often aren’t particular about what they eat and can become obstructed by foreign objects. At vet school, one x-ray on display was of a dog that had completely swallowed a large knife used for carving turkey. Cats tend to like linear foreign objects. For example, thread is used for hanging ornaments or popcorn. Tinsel is known for being tempting to cats and might result in the need for emergency surgery. Both dogs and cats are expert “counter surfers” and only need an instant to grab something enticing. Cats have been known to get severe burns by jumping up on a hot stove. Before you leave something out while you walk away, “just for a second,” please think again.

Noise associated with New Year’s Eve and other holidays can be a risk for pets. Stress and anxiety in response to loud noises are common. Pets may run away or injure themselves in an attempt to escape. Have your pets indoors in a safe, secure, preferably quiet area. A microchip is recommended if a pet runs away and gets found by someone else.

The ASPCA has released a statement on pets as gifts. They recommend “the giving of pets as gifts only to people who have expressed a sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly.” A good pet guardian needs to be mature, responsible, and in it for the long haul. They need to be ready and able to afford and care for a pet for the life of the pet. This is a commitment that can last for many years.

Gifted pets can end up in shelters or re-gifted to other people, particularly if the gift was inappropriate or the novelty wears off. Another scenario is when the gift is intended to help someone who may not actually be capable of caring properly for a pet. The thought is the person will improve their life in response to the new responsibility. Sadly, this is often not the case.

A gifted animal becomes the one to pay the price either with dwindling care or surrender of ownership. Please think carefully before you decide to give a pet to someone as a gift.

I hope both you and your pets have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season this year.

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By admin