The following post is an article written by Bonnie Dawson. She lives in Hay River, North West Territories. She is the founder of Action for the Protection of Northern Animals and is involved with other Animal Welfare groups in Canada. As always, in case of an emergency please consider seeking professional advice as soon as possible in case your dog or cat may need it.
KEEPING PETS SAFE OVER THE HOLIDAYS
WOW!!! Where did the year go? Now your home is sparkling with all manner of delight, tinsel, decorative glass/plastic tree ornaments, snow globes, tree and window lights…. it all looks so amazing. Beautifully wrapped gifts tied with shiny ribbons and of course that amazing pine tree. Holiday plants, nuts, chocolate and scented candles add to the welcome glow of your home. It is a magical time for kids, friends and family.
Your home looks beautiful; yet, all of these things can be potentially deadly to your pet. Some snow globes contain poisonous antifreeze; holly, poinsettias, mistletoe and lilies if ingested by your pet can result in death. Pine needles can puncture holes in your pet’s intestine, and the water keeping your tree fresh can contain deadly fertilizers held in tree sap. NEVER put aspirin (to keep the tree fresh) in the water, you risk your pet’s life. Shattered tree ornaments can cut a pets foot, and worse if thought to be a toy and shattered in your pet’s mouth and ingested will cause intestinal laceration and internal bleeding. Ornaments made from dried food can also cause considerable damage.
Unfortunately the holiday season is NOT a good time to bring home that much wanted puppy or kitten. The noise and hectic activity will stress and frighten the new addition, and you will be far too busy with friends and family to keep the needed eye on the new pet which is necessary to ensure its safety. You will not have the needed time to begin house training, nor time to keep that litter box clean…in other words…you just will not have the time needed to ensure a non traumatic adjustment to your new home for this animal, be it a kitten, puppy or mature animal. You are best to wait until the holiday activity, is over and your home is back to normal and without the potential deadly hazards that provide the Christmas ambiance we all enjoy.
Remember that it is also a very stressful and a very dangerous time for your current companion animals. The comings and goings of family members and friends will make it far too easy for a pet to slip outside unnoticed. Ensure you have ID on your pet’s collar, just in case. This will allow the pet to be easily reunited with you. The best precaution is to advise your guests that you have animals in the house and that they are NOT to be allowed out unless tethered. Even better is to place your pet in another room when your guests arrive and depart, that will ensure no accidental slipping out the door.
Keep the already established routine in place, feeding and walking your dog at the same times you always did. Ensure your pet has a safe and secure place where they can hide out if need be. Holiday activity and guests can really stress your pet out and be very frightening. Your pet can easily experience tummy upsets and sudden illness.
Practice extreme safety, not only for your family but also your pet. Use the gift of Common Sense. Remember to check your smoke detectors and change the batteries if needed, can you imagine yourself out shopping while the alarm won’t stop and your pets are exposed to that high shrill for hours. Protect those extension cords from being chewed, and for your own safety do not plug too many in one outlet.
Keep candles high up where they cannot be knocked over. If you use tinsel, place it high on the tree, curious cats love shiny tinsel and if ingested it can cause serious intestinal blockage and intestinal strangulation. Put away those plastic bags, the handles can wrap around a playful kittens neck, pick up those ribbons and wrapping paper once the presents are opened, plastic toys that can be chewed or stuffed toys with solid eyes and noses should be safeguarded after children’s playtime. Toys using batteries should not be left on the floor, batteries contain acid and if chewed will cause severe burns to your pets mouth, acid ingested can lead to death. New shoes and boots often contain small silica packs, before wrapping those gifts, dispose of those packs safely.
When buying a new pet toy, remember the size of your pet compared to size of toy. A small ball can lodge in their throat; stuffed toys with tiny beans or silica, plastics eyes and noses are not what you want for your pet. Toys with bells inside can be torn apart and the bells accidently swallowed. Remember just like a young child, with an animal everything goes into their mouth. I have personal knowledge of one beautiful Lab here in town that required surgery to remove foreign objects from her stomach and intestine. Severe vomiting was the first symptom alerting her humans that something was terribly wrong.
You will likely purchase dog/cat treats…check the Internet to ensure there have been no FDA warnings or recalls for those products first. Example: the FDA has been issuing warnings on the “Chicken Tenders Jerky” treats since 2007 and Pigs ears can be contaminated with Salmonella. Discourage guests to cave into those soulful eyes, people food can make your pet extremely sick, and no one wants a vet bill or mess to clean up.
Have a First Aid Kit handy: many people items can be used for your pet. Polysporin ointment for lacerations, self adhesive bandage wrap (comes in colors), canned pumpkin or Metamucil (dosage depends on size and weight of pet) whole wheat, high fiber bread to help the pet to pass an ingested foreign object, Pepto-Bismol and plain white low fat yogurt for upset tummies is good to have on hand. As well as these items, I keep a supply of Vita-Lax and other medications on hand which I purchase from my veterinarian; you never know when they may be needed.
If your pet swallows broken plastic, glass, tacks, push pins or any other sharp object call your Vet Immediately. Often in such cases surgery is required.
Please do not tie your pet outside and leave there for the sake of houseguests, and convenience, the temperatures are far too extreme. It is a bad mistake to believe that because your cat or dog has a fur coat that they can withstand extreme cold for very long. If left out too long, an animal’s body reacts just like that of a human. Blood is diverted from the extremities which are the legs, tail, ears, feet; this is done so that blood is circulated to the vital organs (liver, heart, lungs and kidneys). Deprived of blood flow, the extremities will suffer severe frostbite which can result in the loss of limbs, ear tips, nose and tail. Foot pads, their eyes, faces, noses, ears and often in males their genitalia will freeze. How often have you witnessed your own dog outside lifting one foot at a time, or just sitting down and refusing to move….that is because their foot pads are beginning to freeze and are painful…how often have you experienced the severe pain in your toes and hands due to extreme cold..That should tell you something. If your pet is whimpering to draw your attention or scratching at the door, let them in immediately, and base the time allowed outside, by the temperature and wind chill.
Smaller animals, such as cats, should remain indoors period, short haired dogs and those without undercoat should be protected by coats/sweaters/boots when allowed outside or taken for short walks. The BEST precaution is to use COMMON SENSE: Rule of thumb…if it is too cold for you, and your exposed skin will freeze in minutes/seconds then it is too cold for your pet. Leaving your cat or dog out in extremely cold temperatures could and too often results in death. Remember not only is it illegal to transport your dog in the back of an open pickup truck, you are exposing the animal to increased wind chill, the possibility of falling out, jumping out and being dragged or strangled, flying objects such as ice, and death caused by possible multiple vehicle accidents. Personally I have rescued an animal that jumped out of a parked truck at the Northmart in town, this small dog was dangling over the side and would have strangled in minutes. Tethering an animal in the back of an open pick up truck does nothing to guarantee its safety!!! If you must travel with your dog using your truck use a pet carrier which is secured firmly, or preferably place the pet inside the cab, on extremely cold days, leave the animal at home. Allowing your vehicle to idle while parked to provide warmth can also pose a danger, remember to roll down the window enough to allow poisonous carbon monoxide not to build up inside it, and to not allow the heat to build up so much that your animal could suffer heat exhaustion.
Look for signs of frostbite: your pet is shivering, there is ice on limbs and body, body tissue has turned bright red, followed by a pale color, often turning to black which is indicative of dead tissue which will be followed by gangrene if not immediately treated medically. If you see any of these symptoms you can immediately provide First Aid.
- Use towels soaked in warm water (not hot) or warmed ice packs to warm the affected area
- Using a warm bath or bowl of warm water to soak a frozen limb or paw
- Once the area has been warmed, dry the area completely and NEVER massage or rub frozen tissue. This area will be very sensitive and painful, to prevent further self-injury caused by licking or chewing, wrap your pet in a blanket and keep warm.
- NEVER apply snow or ice to the frozen area and NEVER completely immerse your pet into a bath, this would cause the body temperature to drop more and the result would be hypothermia.
Remember if your pet is showing signs of frostbite, there is the real possibility that the pet is also suffering from hypothermia (abnormal lowered body temperature), this can happen even if the animal does not show signs of frostbite and it will result in death if immediate action is not taken.
What you can do: Body temperature is below 37.5C
- Using blankets, warm your pet, if using hot water bottles or an electric heating bad, DO NOT apply appliance uncovered to the pet, wrap these warming agents in towels first, if you do not it can result in burns to your pet and increase the risk of tissue damage.
- DO NOT overheat your pet, normal body temperature is 38.5 C; monitor your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer (perhaps an unpleasant task) but one that will save your pets life. Remember to lubricate the thermometer first.
- SEEK VETERINARY CARE: Even while your pet may seem to have recovered, both bladder and kidney problems are common in animals that have been hypothermic. A pet that has suffered hypothermia and or frostbite is in danger of their life, and in the case of frostbite, severe life threatening infections in dead tissue resulting in gangrene which can spread rapidly.
Using Common Sense and taking the needed precautions will ensure a Safe and Happy Holiday for your family and your pets.
From my family to yours, Philly, Hemi, China, Luna and Zephr wish you all a magical and Blessed Christmas, and a Prosperous, Happy and Healthy New Year.
References: found on Pets.ca
Frostbite/Hypothermia C. Robinson, AHT Bs, Holistic and Alternative Vet. Medicine, Salaberry Veterinary Clinic, Montreal, QC
PAW, Partnership for Animal Welfare, Greenbelt, MD