Around F.C.

Holiday Hazards for Pets: How to Keep an Animal Safe During The Season

Although the holidays are meant to be enjoyed by people and even their furry friends, there may be underlying dangers that could put a beloved pet at risk. 

Decorations, costumes and even the classic Christmas tree can be a hazard for an animal. Pet owners can avoid any potential injury to their pet by acknowledging and preparing their home so that they and their four-legged friend can enjoy a safe holiday. 

Dr. Laura Fink is an associate and intern/extern director at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital and Emergency Center in Annandale, a family-owned practice. Pike said the most common injury she and her practice see during the holiday season is bite wounds from dog fights. She said this is due to people hosting large gatherings with “lots of people and noisy, excited kids” while also bringing their dogs over. 

“Even the most well-behaved dog may be stressed by that environment and snap at another dog they don’t know well who gets too close,” Fink said. 

Fink also said Columbia Pike Animal Hospital sees small dogs and cats receiving injuries from being stepped on in tight quarters, which she advises pet owners to leave their animal in the safety of their home to avoid a large gathering at another place. Gastrointestinal upsets are also common during this season, with Fink stating that pets are fed extra treats, “rich table scraps” and visitors feeding the family pets. Along with new foods, the “excitement of it all can cause stress-related diarrhea. Fink advised limiting the pet’s treats to a couple of items “they have done well with in the past” and giving them a place to “remove themselves from the celebration” can help. 

Pet owners should be aware of holiday hazards their pet may unfortunately get into. (Photo: Laura Fink)

One common, unfortunate occurrence Fink stated she has seen is that pets with chronic illnesses “seem to decline at the worst possible times,” which can include the celebration of an upcoming holiday. Many veterinary clinics are open with limited hours or less staff so they can celebrate with their families as well. Fink said making sure the pet’s regime is not skipped or altered and being proactive about having mild symptoms checked out before the “holiday hit” is a good idea. 

Hayley Chaudry is the Chief Operations Officer for Value Vet, a Falls Church-based veterinary clinic. From what Chaudry and the Value Vet staff have seen in past year, the biggest risk to pets during the holidays “typically involves the ingestion of hazardous items.” Certain plants, such as poinsettias — which are poisonous to pets — and “high-fat holiday foods” that owners aren’t aware of can “wreak havoc” on the gastrointestinal tract. 

Another unfortunate risk during the holiday season Chaudry mentioned is that “more pets are misplaced during the holidays than any time of the year.” 

To keep their furry friends safe during the season, Chaudry stated pet owners can research pet safety information prior to putting up decorations or plants, avoid feeding their animals “those delicious holiday table scraps” and ensure their pets have a registered microchip with up-to-date contact information.