Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays are less than one week from kick-off.  And while most of us look forward to the feasting, imbibing, present-wrapping, and decorating, one oft-overlooked side effect of the winter holidays is its impact on our pets.  With so much holiday cheer distracting us, we often times overlook nibbles on decorative light cords or Fido getting first dibs on Santa’s cookie and milk.
To help keep us watchful and mindful, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. sorted through its database of pets to find the most common holiday-related ailments and misfortunes to strike our pets.  Here is their list of Top Holiday-Related Pet Medical Conditions of 2011 and examples of potential hazards:

    1. Gastritis (Vomiting) – Ingesting “people” food and scraps, holiday plants (lilies, hollies and mistletoe) and Christmas tree water.
    2. Enteritis (Diarrhea) – Eating “people” food and scraps.
    3. Colitis (Loose or bloody stool) – Eating “people” food and scraps; holiday stress.
    4. Pancreatitis (Inflammation of pancreas) – Eating fatty “people” food such as roasts, gravy, nuts, egg nog, etc.
    5. Foreign Body in Gastric Area – Ingesting Christmas tree decorations, ribbon, small gifts and bones from holiday meats.
    6. Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (Bloody vomit, diarrhea) – Eating “people” food and scraps; holiday stress.
    7. Foreign Body in Intestinal Area – Ingesting tinsel, other Christmas tree decorations and bones from holiday meats.
    8. Gastric Surgery – Unable to pass foreign object from stomach.
    9. Intestinal Surgery – Unable to pass foreign object from intestines.
    10. Methylaxanthine Toxicity (Toxic reaction to chocolate) – Eating chocolate or other caffeinated products.

 
Most pet holiday accidents and injuries are related to ingestion or excessive ingestion of items that your pet should not be ingesting.  This is usually caused by overflowing garbage and recycling cans and distracted pet owners not keeping their pets from doing some holiday foraging of their own.
Although not high on the list as being common, chocolate ingestion may be one of the most serious.  Methylaxanthine, a component of chocolate, may cause potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and central nervous system dysfunction. Other potential symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors and seizures. Chocolate poisoning occurs most commonly in dogs, although other species of animals are also susceptible.  Other toxic sources come from holiday plants, like mistletoe, roses, holly, amaryllis, azaleas, and poinsettias.
Another problem due to holiday distraction can be found through neglecting your pet’s water cycle during the holidays.  One cannot blame Fido if he becomes thirsty to scamper towards the Christmas tree water bowl.  This stagnant water may host some nasty bacteria caused from the tree or if treated to preserve the tree, a harmful chemical your pet is not supposed to be ingesting.  Finally, your pet could give gravity an assist, by jostling the tree from its stand, causing physical injuries to your pet – not to mention damage to your property and unopened gifts under the tree.
Finally, be wary of loose electrical cords and sockets.  Your pet can get a shock or burn from exposure or biting the cords.  Or it may cause a heavy or electrical item to fall from a table to the ground, causing other physical injuries.  And make sure to turn off your lights when asleep or not around.  Your tree – if too dry – can always ignite.