WSU Veterinary Hospital Pet Health Tips for the Holidays

PULLMAN, Wash. — Holidays are obviously special times for family and
friends, but have you considered your pets also? Too often, well-meaning
family members and guests injure pets with kindness or simple oversight
during the holidays. The Washington State University College of Veterinary
Medicine’s teaching hospital faculty and staff offer the following top 10 pet
tips to prevent a costly trip to your veterinarian during this festive season.

Give your pet plenty of clean water, not ice. An outside bowl of water
can freeze and leave your pet without water. Ensure your pet’s health
by providing free access to a clean, fresh water source.
Don’t give your dog leftover turkey. Abrupt diet changes can upset a
dog’s digestive system. The result can be simple diarrhea or a severe
and life threatening inflammation of the pancreas. For your happiness
and your dog’s health, don’t share your holiday dinner.
Chocolate isn’t a dog treat. Chocolate contains a chemical called
theobromine. It’s similar to certain powerful drugs and can be
poisonous to dogs. No matter how much they beg, don’t kill your dog
with kindness.
Keep tinsel away from your pet. Tinsel can lodge in your pet’s
digestive system and either plug it up or become stretched tight and
act like saw cutting their stomach or intestines. Simple precautions can
eliminate this costly and completely preventable problem.
Provide adequate shelter from the cold. Dogs are susceptible to
frostbite just like humans. The tips of their ears and toes can freeze and
even require amputation. Make sure your dog has insulated shelter out
of the wind where they can escape the cold.
Use caution with space heaters and electrical cords. Shock injuries and
fires can occur when pets chew electrical cords or knock over heaters.
Space heaters can burn a dog’s skin if they are placed too close. The
easiest way to keep your pet warm is to provide them with good shelter
or even allow them in the house. A clean, dry, fluffy bed or blanket to
lie on is ideal for most pets.
Mistletoe and poinsettias are pretty poisons. Both common holiday
plants contain poisons that can upset your dog’s digestive system,
causing vomiting and diarrhea, or if enough is eaten they can be fatal.
Keep these festive plants where you can enjoy them and your dog
can’t eat them.
Walk your dog on a leash. Leashes are always a good idea for walking
with pets, but especially when the roads are slick and drivers can’t stop
easily. Pets are safest when they are under the close control of a
responsible owner.
If you leave town, provide for your pets. Travel is a common part of the
holidays for many families, and frequently pets aren’t included. If you
are unable to professionally board your animals, have a friend or
neighbor check in on them at least once a day to ensure they have
water, food and shelter. With those daily visits comes a good dose of
companionship from another human that doesn’t hurt either.
Don’t give pets as presents! Animals are magnificent companions only
if the owner is ready to accept the responsibility for their care,
according to Joanne Murphey, community practice veterinarian at
WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Murphey says it is
frustrating for veterinarians to see how often rejected pets end up in
animal shelters in February or March when the new owners realize their
“present” was not what they’d anticipated. Consider offering to help
pick out an animal when the person is ready. Also a basic pet care book
that emphasizes owner responsibility makes a great first gift.