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Holiday fun leaves pets stressed out
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Take rich foods, shining tinsel, laughing guests and fragrant plants, mix with curious pets, and you have a recipe for holiday distress. Give your pets special consideration as you make your holiday plans.
Dr. Cory Langston, service chief of community practice at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said an increase in activities and guests in the home can be very stressful for a pet, depending on the animal's disposition.
"Don't force your pets to socialize if they are afraid or stressed. Don't force them to socialize with children," Langston said. "If you want to introduce children to your pets, do it correctly. Supervise the process, and begin by letting the pet smell the child's hand. Since young children lack the muscle coordination to make smooth movements, show them how to pet an animal gently."
Pets need their own space and time with you to reassure them during the holidays.
"Give your pets a quiet room to hide in during activities. Some animals may even be more comfortable if you board them during these times. It all depends on the disposition of your pets," Langston explained.
Sharing holiday meals and treats with your pets can cause more than a pain in the stomach.
"During the holidays we see a lot of dietary indiscretion, and people tend to give pets more leftovers. Such rapid changes in diet often cause problems such as vomiting or diarrhea," Langston said. "Be especially careful of high-fat foods, which can lead to more serious health problems such as pancreatitis."
Chocolate is a staple in many households year-round, but it is especially abundant during the holidays. While Langston said a small piece of chocolate would not likely be fatal, large amounts of chocolate, especially baker's chocolate, could cause serious health problems including seizures and heart problems.
While decking the halls, remember that many traditional holiday items can be a toxic temptation for pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, artificial snow is poisonous, Christmas ornament fragments can perforate the stomach and frayed light cords can shock or burn pets.
"A common misconception is that poinsettias are deadly to pets. While the plants will cause some vomiting and diarrhea if pets consumes them, it is typically not a life-threatening situation," Langston explained. "Toxic plants include Christmas rose, holly leaves and berries, and mistletoe leaves and especially the berries."
Long, stringy items present a great danger to pets, and these abound during the holidays. Ribbons and strings around gifts can be a great temptation to cats, and shimmering tinsel can be irresistible.
"While small, round objects may pass through the animal's GI system, long strings can lodge and cause the intestine to spasm," Langston said. "These often will not pass through and have to be surgically removed."
If your pet has a string or ribbon in its mouth, apply gentle traction to remove as much of it as possible, and watch the animals for signs of distress.
"If a pet eats a toxic plant, induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide at the rate of one teaspoon orally per 10 pounds of animal weight. Do not induce vomiting if the pet is unconscious, has ingested a petroleum distillate or a caustic -- such as a battery," Langston said. "I've seen many puppies brought in as emergency cases because they had chewed or swallowed a battery."
Liquid potpourri may bring a pleasant scent to your home, but it can cause many problems for cats. Cats are the most susceptible to this kind of poisoning, according to the Poison Control Center of the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Cats exposed to the fragrant liquids often need extensive treatment and several days of hospitalization. The liquids are usually made of essential oils and cationic detergents, and both of these are toxic to cats. Since many potpourri products do not have a list of ingredients, the poison control center advised consumers to assume any liquid potpourri includes both of these.
Contact your veterinarian for more information or if you suspect a pet has come into contact with a toxin.
For more information, contact: Dr. Cory Langston, (662) 325-1265