During the holidays, we often get out of our normal routines which can cause our furry friends significant stress. The University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine put together few tips to help keep pets stress-free during the holiday rush:
- If you are entertaining or having visitors, consider putting your pet away in a safe place (somewhere they like to relax, such as a bedroom) with toys and treats to help them keep calm without having to cope with the human chaos.
- Try to keep your pets’ routine as normal as possible.
- If you have a dog who shows territorial or protective behaviors, or fear-based aggression toward people being in your home, either board them in a facility that you trust (such as your veterinarian’s clinic) or safely put them up in a location at home. Crating or kenneling in a separate room is a great example.
- The new year’s holiday is synonymous with fireworks and loud noises. This can be really scary for dogs and cats. If our pet is known to be afraid of loud and sudden noises, talk to their veterinarian ahead of time. There are medications that can help them cope. At home, make sure they have a safe place where they can retreat. A white noise machine, TV, or calming music can also help. And don’t hesitate to comfort your pet when they are in distress, it will make them feel safer and won’t increase their fearfulness.
- Holidays involve plenty of foods that are enticing to your pets — but which are bad for them! Don’t leave leftovers or edible items in their reach, such as on counter tops or in bags on the floor (don’t forget about food items that might be wrapped as gifts under the tree — they can sniff it out!)
Chocolate and your pet: Why is it so bad for them?
It is not necessarily more deadly for dogs than other animals, but dogs have a certain — let’s say tendency — to overindulge, and eat large amounts of chocolate at a single time, thus increasing the possibility of toxicity. There are two toxic compounds that we worry about, and these vary depending on the type of chocolate that is ingested. Theobromine and caffeine are similar compounds and are present in highest concentration in baker’s chocolate, followed by dark chocolate, and then milk chocolate. An overdose of these compounds is similar to a caffeine overdose and can cause elevations in heart rate, anxiety, restlessness/hyperactivity, and neurologic signs such as seizures if the blood levels are high enough.
Large ingestions of these compounds can be life-threatening and require hospitalization that may include IV medications to slow heart rate, encourage excretion of the toxins, stop seizures, and provide sedation. This is all if the ingested chocolate cannot be cleared by inducing vomiting (although some is always absorbed, so the actual amount can vary from patient to patient). Chocolate, especially milk chocolate, is also high in fat, and some dogs are unable to tolerate large amounts of fat. In these dogs, the high fat content can cause inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases can even result in critical illness and death. The toxic levels of caffeine in cats are similar to those in dogs, but cats just tend to be a bit more discriminatory overall… unless we’re talking about tinsel.