This busy time of year, filled with holiday hustle and bustle, can be dangerous for pets. Cold weather, tempting trash bags filled with food waste, and gaily decorated Christmas trees are all potential hazards for dogs and cats. Nobody wants a happy family gathering to end with a trip to the veterinary emergency hospital, so follow our tips below, and keep everyone, two- and four-legged, happy and safe this winter.

Ensure pets stay out of the cold

Cold weather can be as dangerous for pets as hot weather. Follow these suggestions to keep your pet comfortable when the thermometer dips.

  • Be aware of your pet’s cold tolerance  — Every pet, including those who are super furry or long-haired, can spend limited time outside in cold weather before they become uncomfortable. Animals with short hair coats, and young and old pets have much less tolerance for cold. Pets with short legs may also get colder faster, since their bodies are so close to the ground. Prevent your pet from developing hypothermia or frostbite with these recommendations:
    • Stay together — Don’t leave pets unattended outdoors or in an unheated car. You can easily lose track of time if you’re not with them, and hypothermia is life-threatening.
    • Stay indoors — Keep dogs and cats indoors in cold, snowy, or icy weather.
    • Keep it short — Take your dog for shorter walks if it’s cold outside. Recognize that some dogs will acclimate to cold better than others over time.
    • Keep them warm — Consider a dog coat for your furry friend for cold weather walks, always ensuring the coat is dry before putting it on your pet.
  • Check paw pads during and after a walk — Cold weather can cause your pet’s paw pads to crack and bleed, and sand and salt sprinkled on pavement can get trapped in their pads, causing pain and injury. In breeds with curly hair coats, ice can build up in the fur between the pads and cause discomfort. Wearing protective booties on winter walks may help some dogs.
  • Keep pets away from wet areas — Keep your pet dry, and wipe their paws clean and dry after each walk. Your pet may encounter antifreeze and other toxic chemicals used to remove ice during outdoor adventures. If you think your pet may have consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately since this is a life-threatening toxin.
  • Stay off icy ground — If the ground is icy, find a non-slippery indoor venue where you can walk, especially if your pet is arthritic, or has decreased mobility and a higher injury risk. Some hardware stores and pet supply shops welcome well-behaved pets and their owners for walks around the store. If that’s not possible, set up an exercise course in your living room, which can be a fun, non-stressful way to get moving safely in winter, especially for older pets.

 Ensure pets don’t overindulge or overeat

Many holiday foods are dangerous for pets, and overindulging can be fatal. Keep these recommendations in mind this holiday season.

  • Stay out of the trash — The smells of holiday leftovers in the trash can or left on the table can be overwhelmingly tempting to your dog or cat. But, eating these leftovers can lead to several life-threatening emergencies, such as bloat, gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), intestinal obstructions, and pancreatitis.   
  • Ensure pets skip dessert — Chocolate, including baking chocolate, and xylitol, a sugar substitute, are highly toxic to animals. Unbaked dough, if ingested, will continue to rise in your pet’s stomach, causing pain and obstruction.

Keep pets away from Christmas trees

That beautifully decorated tree can be hazardous to pets, so keep them away from the tree for several reasons.

  • Tinsel takeaway — Cats, in particular, love to eat tinsel strands, which can become entangled in their intestines, requiring emergency surgery for removal. If you see tinsel in your cat’s mouth or anus, don’t pull, which could do more damage, and contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Dim the lights — Always unplug the Christmas tree and other electrical cords when you’re not home. Keep pets away from the tree when it’s plugged in, so they can’t chew the cords and get an electric shock, which can be worse than it seems, because fluid can accumulate in the pet’s lungs and they will have difficulty breathing. 
  • Wood is not good — Some artificial Christmas trees and some real ones can be toxic to pets. Artificial trees often contain toxic chemicals, while real trees are often sprayed with chemicals to keep them fresh, or to repel insects.  Also, pets who chew the needles can injure their mouths and have gastrointestinal problems.  

Liberty Veterinary Hospital hopes these tips help you put the difficult year of 2020 to rest, and that you have your happiest holiday season, but if you ever have questions or concerns about keeping your pet safe during the winter holidays, contact us.