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Consider Christmas from a Pet’s P.O.V.

December 12, 2010

Your Christmas Decorations Look Like Toys to a Dog, Cat, Ferret or Bird

White American Bulldog Puppy contemplates a Christmas tree

Uh Oh!

Your holiday celebrations may involve jingly, jangling, dangly, glittering, branchy, tree-y, crinkly, or even stringy, ribbon-y sorts of decorations.  As traditional, nostalgic and heirloom as they seem to you, they are mere toys to your beloved pet.

Ali, the 4-month-old albino white American Bulldog Puppy thought a red bell hanging from a ribbon in the animal hospital waiting room was toy meant just for her.  Luckily we pulled her away with cookie bribes before she tore the tree to the floor!  Who hasn’t walked past the tree in the living room, only to be startled witless by a cat screaming out of the upper branches?  Or better, awoken to strewn carcasses of silver-lined hand-blown glass ornaments broken and carelessly tossed around the living room like so many used toys?  Don’t even think of letting a ferret or bird near the decorations.  The devastation would be mighty!

But even through the heartbreak and worry of losing your favorite decorations and wondering if your pet is okay, it’s the hidden holiday dangers that Doc Truli dreads each holiday season.

Try not to adopt a puppy during the holidays

It’s a stressful, confusing time for a new little one to integrate with the family.
It’s difficult to keep track of the kids, let alone a new puppy.

“I remember a family that called me on Christmas morning.  They suffered a terrible tragedy and there was nothing I could do to help.  The 8-week-old yellow Labrador Retriever Puppy was let out of his sleeping crate by the 3-year-old son.  The puppy proceeded to rip up the Christmas presents waiting under the tree whilst the family slept.  Unfortunately for the puppy, one of the presents was a box of chocolates.  Being a lab, he ate the whole thing.  His little body couldn’t take the poisonous dose of chocolate and they found him, deceased, under the tree in the morning.  Please, do not bring new pets into the house right at the busy holidays.  You cannot imagine what might go wrong,” recounts Doc Truli.

Do Not Allow Cats and Decorations to Mix

“Every year, someone tells me how their cat does this or that the same way each year for 8 or 9 or 10 years,  Like playing on the balcony.  Or riding in the car with the window rolled all the way down, or playing near the swimming pool.  All of which can end in tragedy and it just takes once.  But the one I hate to hear is the Christmas tinsel,” says Doc Truli.

Keep cats away from ribbons, tinsel, garland, dental floss, string, thread, and other linear toys and scraps and doo-thingees.  Cats love to play with string-like materials.  But, for some strange reason, when they get it stuck on their tooth, or their paw, or their fur, they start eating it like a string of spaghetti noodle from Disney’s movie Lady and the Tramp.  That string goes right down!  The trouble is, the string often gets stuck in the stomach, or partly under the tongue while the rest of it trails down into the 30-odd feet of small intestine.

You can see and understand a problem with a string stuck in the intestines.  But most people cannot imagine the horror if that string stays a few days.  The string acts as a stable center for the intestines to bunch up and essentially crawl up upon through their normal peristaltic wave-like muscle action.  The intestines will look like a straw wrapper that you have pushed down from a straw, with the straw firmly affixed to the table top.  Yes, a bunched up scrunchie-like situation results.

The string, or ribbon, or yarn, or tinsel stays taut in the middle of the bunched-up intestine and the string acts like a saw.  It acts like the string used to cut cheese, or a block of years for baking.  Or a garrote for cutting a person’s throat in the action-horror movies.  The resulting damage amounts to hundreds f cuts through the walls of the intestine, with bacteria and stomach acids leaking into the abdominal cavity.  A talented surgeon needs to clean out the abdomen and sew every little hole to save your cat’s life.  Even then, sometimes the sepsis and infection is too great!

So please, do not let your cat play with string unattended.  Doc Truli forbids ribbon in the house because once, when she opened the wrapping closet (designed to keep the cats safely out of the ribbon), VirtuaCat came sauntering out of the locked closet, having somehow sneaked in and spent the night in there.  If a vet can’t keep the cat out of the string, what chance do you really have against the kitty?

Keep Lights and Decorations up About 3-4 Feet

Depending how agile your pet really is, VirtuaVet suggests you string lights, garland, and other decorations at least 3-4 feet off of the ground.  Cats, especially like to chew electrical cords that wire together holidays festive lights.

Electrocution in a pet results in possible burns in the mouth.  Look at the commissures, or the point where the lips meet at the back of the smile, look on and under the tongue.  Also, electrocution may cause fluid to suddenly rush into the lungs.  It is called neurogenic pulmonary edema.  The same pattern happens with drowning and severe seizures.  If the cord is messed-up and your pet is having labored breathing, get to the vet’s right away!

If your cat or dog is not electrocuted, then the chewing of the glass lights is dangerous.  VirtuaVet once came home to find a 12-week-old kitten (Koishka), looking tired, and light bulbs crunched to bits.  It took a while to clean his mouth out and get all the glass bits out.

Lead, and other poisonous heavy metals can be found in electrical decorations, and especially antique, second-hand, or unregulated decorations imported from other countries.  Just do not let the children or the pets lick and play with these things!

Enjoy Your Holidays

Remember to enjoy your traditions and holidays, but keep consistency and a familiar schedule for your pets and your children as much as possible, especially the pets.  A regular walk, feeding times, and training and play times will keep you and your cat, dog, ferret, or bird happier and more relaxed for the holidays.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2010 10:56 am

    A long long time ago Trouble got hold of and tried to eat a string, but it got stuck on her tongue and the vet was able to pull it out. Since then all stringlike material has been kept well away from the kitties!

    • December 16, 2010 7:57 am

      That was a close call!

  2. December 12, 2010 10:26 pm


    • December 14, 2010 8:41 pm

      Sorry. Reality bites!

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