What a wonderful time of year with all the holiday cheers and family gatherings.
Pets even enjoy a little extra attention as many pet owners have them groomed and dress them as well as buy them Christmas gifts to open. It is nice to see all the pets dressed up in their holiday outfits and festive bows in their hair. However, behind the scenes of Norman Rockwell paintings of perfect life and pure bliss, this time of year also poses real dangers to pets.
Although the weather has been unseasonably mild so far, there are several problems for pets associated with the typical weather for this time of year and celebration of the holidays.
First of all, the cold weather, which is sure to come, is responsible for many cases of antifreeze poisonings and car engine trauma of cats.
Antifreeze poisonings are all too common in the winter. It only takes a very small amount of antifreeze to spill on the ground and cause poisoning in dogs and cats. Pets love the sweet flavor of antifreeze and will seek it out if they smell it. Worse yet is the fact that most pets will not survive after ingesting the poison. Initially, it will only cause slight disorientation and mild clinical signs, but follows in a couple of days with severe irreversible kidney failure.
Cats that live outside are attracted to the warmth of a car engine during the frigid winter days. The problem is when the car is started the cat will become startled and run into the fan blades for the radiator. The injuries sustained from these fan blades are almost always fatal. If not fatal, the injuries are too severe to repair. If you suspect any outside cats around your house, it is a good idea to bang on the hood of the car prior to starting the engine.
The past couple of years, Old Man Winter has covered the area with more ice than snow. Ice storms and freezing rain certainly poses more danger than snow for people and also causes more problems for pets.
Every year, a few patients come into the clinic with injuries sustained from slipping on ice. Some of these injuries are only minor, but I have seen several cases of torn cruciate ligaments in their knee from falling on the ice. Occasionally, a dog or cat will develop inflammation on the bottom of their paws from irritation caused by salt or other products used to melt snow and ice.
Those are some of the more common problems pets have with the cold weather this time of year. There are also plenty of potential hazards facing pets that are a direct result of the holiday celebration.
Unfortunately, every December we see patients that have, one way or another, gotten into the Christmas decorations and suffered serious consequences. Pet owners are often not completely aware of how dangerous certain decorations can be.
There is usually at least one patient who chewed on an electric cord for Christmas tree lights. Although the shock causes severe burns on their tongue, gums and lips, they usually recover very well.
One of the most dangerous decorations is tinsel used to adorn the Christmas tree. They are especially attractive to cats who like to play with them and sometimes swallow them.
Any kind of linear foreign object such as strings and thread swallowed by pets has potential for causing intestinal obstruction. The linear object, like tinsel, essentially acts like a drawstring in the intestines and ties them in a knot. This is obviously a very serious condition that most often requires surgery with a guarded prognosis.
Not long ago, a dog patient decided to eat the plastic berries off of a tree decoration. The berries looked very real but I can’t imagine that the dog liked the way they smelled or tasted. Nevertheless, after managing to get him to vomit up all the berries, he made a full recovery but barely dodged exploratory surgery.
The most common ailments of pets seen at Christmas time are gastroenteritis, pancreatitis and colitis. These are all gastrointestinal conditions commonly occurring after your pet has eaten something out of the ordinary such as the traditional Christmas dinner. For many pets any kind of people food is capable of causing illness, but pork is the number one culprit for such ailments.
To better enjoy the holidays and winter weather, pet owners should be careful and think ahead to possibly prevent injury or illness for their pet. You know your pet better than anyone else and may be able to predict if they are likely to bother certain decorations.
However, if your pet becomes injured or sick, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.