Sunday, May 9, 2021

Holiday Tips for Pet Owners

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

While the holidays may be the most joyous time of year for us humans, they are wrought with risks that make them the most dangerous time of year for our pets.

That coil of turkey skin or dish of gravy your uncle Murray sneaks to Fido under the table could very well lead to pancreatitis, a serious medical condition in cats and dogs. And if Morris, your family’s stealthy feline, manages to swallow a strand of tinsel, you’re looking at an expensive trip to the emergency hospital and probable surgery to clear a life-threatening obstruction.

Experienced local pet sitter Karina Paape, owner of Island Pet Sitters, warns area pet owners that simple holiday traditions, such as trimming the Christmas tree or decorating the house, can pose potential problems – some even fatal – for pets if they are not monitored carefully.

“Much like toddlers, pets are attracted to bright lights, shining ornaments, ribbons, bows and dangling tinsel,” explains Paape who has been in business on Marco Island since 2003. “Pet owners should be aware that many holiday decorations, plants and foods can be hazardous, and in extreme cases even fatal, to their pets.”

Paape adds that it’s your pet’s natural curiosity that sparks an irresistible desire to further explore these holiday temptations by licking, chewing, tasting or even swallowing said objects. Dogs and cats can and will swallow innocuous seeming objects like jingle bells, tinsel, ribbons, tree needles, and small ornaments, which in turn can wreak havoc on their gastrointestinal systems. In some cases surgery may be required to save your pet’s life. Also be careful about where you place candles, potpourri, chocolates, and Grandma’s bowl of eggnog.

And don’t forget to anchor the Christmas tree using monofilament line. Many a cat owner can tell you a chilling tale of how Morris brought down the tree last year, shattering all of the glass ornaments then proceeded to pad through the debris field and, with paws now bleeding, continued on across a freshly cleaned carpet!

And of course there are a number of potentially toxic holiday plants that your pet shouldn’t graze on. Poinsettia and Christmas cactus are ranked as being the least toxic followed by mistletoe and holly. Amaryllis is the most toxic, especially its bulb. Next on the danger list comes the Christmas tree itself, replete with its sharp pine needles which – when swallowed – can cause gastrointestinal upset, obstruction, or even puncture.

The sap produced by the tree can also irritate your pet’s mouth or stomach and the tree water can become a toxic and unhealthy pool of bacteria, mold, and fertilizer. There aren’t many pooches out there with the intestinal fortitude of the Rottweiler in Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation,” who eats through the kitchen garbage, crunches on turkey bones under the holiday dining table, and drinks out of the Christmas tree stand.

So what should you watch for if you suspect Fido or Morris have gotten into dangerous mischief? Diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, loss of appetite, and gagging are obvious red flags. Medical events triggered by ingesting holiday fare, libation, and decor include: a severe drop in blood pressure; respiratory problems; arrhythmia; convulsions; and abdominal pain.

Don’t let a life threatening pet emergency put a damper on your holidays this year by exercising the same caution you would as if you had a toddler romping around the house! With smart planning, the holidays can be a joyous time for the whole family, pets included.

Island Pet Sitters offers pet owners these helpful hints to keep pets out of danger while still enjoying the food, fun and festivities that accompany the holidays. For more information, visit

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