10 Holiday Hazards That Cause Pet Emergencies (and Big Vet Bills)

Dog and cat with menorah
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Sure it’s supposed to be a happy season, but many of our pets don’t feel it during the holidays.

Clearly you love your pet, but there are some things you may do in this season that could hurt your four-legged friend, and cost you a big-bucks vet visit, too. Take note of these 10 often overlooked dangers, and keep your pet — and your bank account — healthy this holiday season:

1. Cold

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True, some dogs relish cold weather, like those featured in a list published by The American Kennel Club (AKC). But other dogs — think Chihuahuas and toy terriers — lose heat quickly and may benefit from warm attire, said Gina Pollock, co-founder of retailer PuppyKisses. Not sure if your dog needs a coat? That’s understandable. It really depends on breed, age and medical condition of your pet. And coats and sweaters can irritate skin, cause overheating, or even choke an animal. Before you dress your pet, consult your vet (just call their office and ask — you likely don’t need an appointment) and read this article from PetMD. For cats, sweaters are basically never essential, explains Pet MD, and could cause them to overheat, or impede their movement, causing an accident.

2. Too much outdoor time

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Allowing your cat to come indoors may sound like common sense, but many people believe that dogs, cats and other pets are naturally resistant to cold. That’s not true, notes the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA). If you’re cold, they’re cold. And yes, that can even be true for cold-weather-loving dogs and “outdoor” cats, too, even those clad in jackets and sweaters. Don’t put your pets outside in cold weather and assume they are fine. Doing so not only makes them miserable, but may result in a vet visit for hypothermia, frostbite or other conditions! Allow your dog and cat access to shelter any time it is needed.

3. Car engines and wheel wells

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Sure, you know where your pets are at all times, but not everyone is as conscientious. Cats and other animals (squirrels, rodents) sometimes crawl into vehicles’ wheel wells and engines to stay warm (they may also chew belts and cords, so make sure you occasionally lift your hood and check the engine too). Before you start your vehicle, speak loudly, slam the car door and make other noise. Remind your holiday guests of this concern before they leave your house, too.

4. People food

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Most pet owners know that chocolate is lethal for pets. But so are many other items, including bread dough, coffee, macadamia nuts, grapes and alcohol. Keep a close eye on your pet during holiday feasting season and guard against such often overlooked poisons. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals published a list of common human treats that may prove deadly for your pet. (And don’t forget to keep turkey bones away from critters!)

5. Decorations

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Poinsettias, Christmas trees, tree-water additives, ornaments, candles, potpourri (even liquid), tinsel and other festive holiday decorations can make a pet ill — or worse. Check the AVMA list of holiday-decor items that can prove fatal to your beloved pet.

6. Power cords

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Many of us get out long ropes to play tug-of-war with dogs or entice cats to chase feathers attached to strings. It’s understandable that your pet may think a power cord is another plaything. But gnawing a cord can burns, cause stomach upset (especially if the pet swallows a part of the cord or the casing) or worse. Protect your pet by keeping cords out of reach or secured.

7. Decorative bows and ribbons

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Yes, it’s a lot of fun to rip open holiday gifts and let the bows and ribbons fall where they may. If your pet ingests either, though, they can become ill or die from intestinal obstruction. The ribbons and bows are most enticing to cats, but it’s a good idea to keep them away from all pets. If they are ingested, an emergency trip to the vet and surgery is most often needed, wrote Jason Nicholas, chief medical officer for Preventive Vet. Do without ribbons and bows or keep them away from pets.

8. Human guests

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If you’re like most people you find the arrival of holiday guests — even your nearest and dearest family and friends — a tad stressful. So does your pet! The noise, smells and movements combine to overwhelm your furry friend. Make sure you create a safe, quiet place to which your pet can retreat.

If your pet is getting too much exposure to guests, or too little attention and exercise during this busy season, consider getting some help from a pet sitter or walker. We recommend pet-sitting network Rover.com to connect with enthusiastic, capable pet sitters — or find a trusted neighbor kid who wants to earn a few bucks.

9. Canine, feline or other animal visitors

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To the extent it is possible, decline requests by those wanting to bring their dog, cat, or other pets to your home for the holidays. Their presence might cause illness not just in your pets, but in other human guests, noted AVMA. Even if that’s not the case, you may not know if the animals will tolerate each other. If another pet is present in your home, make sure you monitor interactions carefully, AVMA advised.

Ask your guests to consider a pet sitter instead. Check out: “How Rover.com Can Help You Through the Holidays.”

10. Holiday outfits

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Some people love to dress their pets in outfits for the holidays. As a general rule, that’s fine as long as your pet is comfortable (make sure the outfit doesn’t rub on its skin), closely supervised (no chewing, and make sure the outfit does not catch on furniture or other items) and wears it a for a short time (a few hours is what VetStreet recommends for dogs — and that seems like a good rule of thumb for cats, too).

What holiday hazards have your pets encountered? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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