Christmas: Risky Time for Pets – Ray Hudson

    Fozzie gets a safe Christmas toy to enjoy. Photo by Ray Hudson
    Fozzie gets a safe Christmas toy to enjoy.  Photo by Ray Hudson
    Fozzie gets a safe Christmas toy to enjoy.
    Photo by Ray Hudson

    We have pets around us for companionship, some keep us mouse-free, are working animals such as guide and special assistance dogs, and keep the occasional prowler away in the middle of the night. There are many stories of heroic casts and dogs that have saved their families from fire and other hazards, so it is particularly important at this time of year, that we pay special attention to the things which can injure them.

    Lorie Chortyk, the General Manager of Community Relations with the BC SPCA, spoke to Ray Hudson of the Asian Journal about the things to be aware of at this time of year.

    Ray Hudson: First, how do you feel about giving pets as presents?

    Lorie Chortyk: We certainly don’t discourage adoption around Christmas time because often, people are around home more over the holiday season and they can spend more time with the new animal, but giving one as a gift is not a good idea. How about writing-up a gift certificate that will pay for the adoption fee instead? The gift recipient can then decide on their own, when they’re ready.

    Ray Hudson: With all the food, decorations and so on around during holidays what can harm your pet?

    Lorie Chortyk: Cooked poultry bones are a real danger, they can splinter and perforate the throat, stomach or digestive tract. Chocolate is the next hazard. It’s poisonous to dogs and cats, and the lighter in weight the animal is, the less tolerant it is to chocolate. It contains both caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, which is deadly to cats and dogs. Generally the darker and more bitter the chocolate, such as baker’s chocolate, the more dangerous.
    Other major foods that can be poisonous include: alcoholic drinks, (particularly if they are sweet), macadamia nuts, apple seeds, avocados, coffee (because of caffeine), garlic, grapes, raisins, salt, walnuts, and Xylitol the artificial sweetner.

    Ray Hudson: What about decorations?

    Lorie Chortyk: Tinesel (icicles) can cause intestinal issues, (tangling in the gut) as well as angel hair. Try to use non-breakable ornaments, because cats love to play with shiney and dangly things in the tree. With non-breakable ornaments, if the pet knocks one off, it won’t shatter and if they chew it the pet won’t get glass in the mouth, or ingest it. Wire decoration hooks are also a hazard if ingested. We recommend people use strings to hang ornaments instead. Be aware that some pets can chew the electrical wires, risking being shocked and causing fires, and finally, if the tree is real, and you use chemicals in the water to keep it hydrated, make sure the pet can’t drink this fluid.

    Ray Hudson: We often see plants given gifts and used as decoration. What should the pet owner know in this area?

    Lorie Chortyk: Many seasonal plants can be poisonous. Cats are particularly at risk because they are so curious and may chew on parts of the plant. Mistletoe, holly, ornamental peppers, and Christmas rose are poisonous. Poinsettia plants aren’t poisonous but they do contain latex, and although it won’t kill, it will make them sick. I also want to warn people about pet toys. Many have squeakers, small bells or other hard plastic parts, and owners need to supervise the pet so they don’t swallow any of these pieces.

    Ray Hudson: The cold weather brings hazards. I’m thinking of antifreeze which is one of the most dangerous things in the environment.

    Lorie Chortyk: Ethylene glycol antifreeze is the most dangerous. Animals are drawn to it because it has a sweet smell and taste. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done for the animal once it’s poisoned. It’s almost always fatal, and it doesn’t take much. In some cases just a tablespoon for a cat or a small dog is fatal. Watch your animals closely when walking them around areas where cars are parked, and encourage people to use a propylene-based anti freeze instead of the Ethylene glycol.
    And speaking of winter, a walk in the ice and snow is great, but carefully wipe off the paws when you come back from the walk. De-icing chemicals and salt can cause problems if left on the paws or amongst the pads.
    I would like to add that people should clean up after the party. Be careful not to leave left-over food out where pets can get into it, particularly chocolate, sweet alcoholic drinks, and even bits of marijuana if you’re into that sort of thing. Finally, pets may be fine in their home but how would they react with strangers coming in? A good thing for the pet is to remove them to a room where they will have a little more peace and quiet and not getting over-stimulated.

    Ray Hudson: Any final reminder?

    Lorie Chortyk: I think of everything the most important one is the antifreeze problem because more animals die every year because of antifreeze poisoning than any of the other hazards around.

    To take the guesswork out of an emergency this holiday, the Asian Journal suggesets you clip out the list below, tape it near your phone or write the closest number down and have it handy, and have a safe wonderful holiday.

    After Hours Emergency Veterinary Clinics

    Intercity Animal Emergency Clinic
    580 SE Marine Drive Vancouver 604.321.8080

    Surrey & Mainland Animal Emergency Clinic
    15338 Fraser Hwy, Surrey 604.588.4000

    Abbotsford Valley Animal Emergency Clinic
    2388 McCallum Rd. 604.850.0911

    Langley Animal Emergency
    6325 – 204th St   604.514.1711

    Central Animal Emergency Clinic
    812 Roderick Ave Coquitlam 604.931.1911