Pets’ Holiday Horrors
Christmas and summer holidays often cause many problems for our animal family members.
Please heed these warnings and take special care of your pets this festive season. Let your family and friends know what to look out for, too.
The most common holiday problem for pets is the consumption of inappropriate foods, which their system cannot cope with. Dogs are particularly prone to pancreatic problems if fed excessive amounts of fat, so giving Fido the fatty off-cuts from the ham or the barbeque steak will often set off a bout of abdominal pain or vomiting. Even in moderately severe cases, this can mean a few days in hospital on intravenous fluids to allow the digestive system to return to normal. Ham can cause gastroenteritis in cats, too.
Fried onions from the barbie can be toxic to pets, causing changes to the red blood cells and anaemia. Keep meat on skewers well away from pets as the sharp sticks are often consumed along with the meat and can perforate the intestines.
Ham bones and cooked chicken bones should not be given to pets, either. Ham bones are salty and usually still have enough fat and meat attached to cause stomach upsets and cooked bones splinter, often causing intestinal obstructions and perforations.
Wrap up prawn peelings and heads carefully and place them in the freezer, as many a sorry pooch or puss has suffered severe food poisoning from finding these tasty morsels in the garbage bin after a few days.
Chocolates are another no-no, as they are toxic in larger amounts. Raisins are also toxic to pets.
Cats are prone to investigate things like fish hooks, which may still have pieces of bait attached. Most summers vets see cats with a hook caught in their lip from lines left in the garage or under the house with a tempting morsel of prawn or fish dangling just within reach.
Many plants are toxic to cats, especially lilies and cyclamens. Poinsettias and many berries can cause gastric upsets. You can spray them with diluted lemon juice or citronella oil as a deterrent but it is safer to use native plants as table decorations.
Keep your pets safe from knocking over the Christmas tree, breaking ornaments, getting caught up in tinsel or eating the gifts by placing a baby pen around it, or using pet-safe decorations and propping the tree up in a corner or tying it to a post to prevent it from toppling over.
Snakes can be the silent killers of pets, especially during the warmer months of the year. They come in a variety of colours and sizes. They can be found in most environments and may not be seen. If they begin to move your pets may then chase them. The toxin of a snake bite will affect the central nervous system of your pet and/or cause internal bleeding. If left untreated, this can be fatal.
Signs of snakebite include:
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid pulse
- Vomiting and bloody diarrhoea
For first aid it is important to restrict movement, apply a pressure bandage, but not a tourniquet, then take the animal to the vet immediately.
Insect stings and bites
Your pet can be bitten by many different types of insects and affected in many different ways. These insects may range from bees or wasps to green ants and spiders. The results may be localised or may affect the whole animal.
Local signs include redness, itching, pain and swelling at the site. If the animal is affected more severely then you may see vomiting, extensive swelling, difficulty breathing, collapse and shock.
First aid measures include:
- Flick or scrape the sting out if one is there. DO NOT squeeze it.
- Apply a cold pack to the area.
- If more than mild local signs are present seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
- If swelling is in the neck or facial area seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
If you live in a tick-prone area or intend to take your pet on holidays to the coast with you then be aware of the dangers of paralysis ticks at this time of the year. The paralysis tick is a parasite that attaches itself to your pet, and as the name suggests, causes paralysis, respiratory distress and, in severe cases, death.
Once it begins to feed the tick injects a toxin into the animal’s system. When the animal starts to suffer the effects of paralysis it is unable to expel saliva and this can cause pneumonia by running down into the lungs. The toxin also has a profound effect on the heart.
Symptoms include a hoarse bark, change in meow, difficulty breathing, wobbly hind legs, gagging with frothy vomit, and inability to stand.
Make sure you have your veterinarian’s number (or the number of one where you are staying) and ring for advice immediately. Speak to your vet before you go on holidays to get the best advice on preventing tick paralysis.
Other problems to be aware of are:
- The danger of leaving pets in closed cars even for 5 minutes – heat stress is a killer.
- Giving medications such as aspirin or paracetamol (Panadol), which are especially toxic to cats.
- Leaving pets unattended at home for a few days. Even if food and water are left out for them it can be knocked over, or the pet can escape and not be missed for days. Consider a house-sitter or pet minding service while you are away.
- Fireworks – ensure your dog is well confined if New Year’s Eve festivities are a worry for your pet. If your dog or cat is afraid of loud noises they may escape in fright and become injured or lost.
- Chewing gum and other products containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol have been found to be dangerous to pets – large amounts can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse and seizures (this effect is not seen in humans).
- Tinsel, ribbons and glass ornaments are often eaten by pets, causing intestinal damage or obstruction – keep Christmas wrappings out of reach.
- Grass seeds – weepy or pussy eyes need attention immediately as grass seeds are a frequent problem at this time of year. Shaking the head or swollen ears are signs of a grass seed in the ear and licking constantly at the feet could also indicate a grass seed infection requiring removal by your vet.
- Hot sand or footpaths – if it’s too hot for you to walk on then it’s too hot for your pets, too.