Erick Muehlenbein: Pitfalls, perils of coming fall and winter seasons for pets |

Erick Muehlenbein: Pitfalls, perils of coming fall and winter seasons for pets

Erick Muehlenbein
Submitted to The Union

The days are getting shorter and the smell of fall is in the air. Before we know it the family will all be crowded around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, but even scarier is the fact that Christmas is going to be here in what seems like the blink of an eye.

While these holidays are joyous (or dreaded depending on your family), there are many hidden dangers lurking that can affect our pets.

Cold and damp weather can bring out aches and pains in both us and our pets. If you have been thinking that the dog has been slower getting up or just can’t “go like he used to,” now might be the time to talk to your vet about appropriate pain medications or joint supplements.

Also, just because it is colder outside doesn’t mean that we can stop treating for fleas. Those fleas generally lay their eggs in a well-traveled place like dog beds or dog houses, just waiting for the right circumstances to hatch and infest our pets. With winter weather many times providing adequate shelter to our outdoor animals will go a long way toward keeping them comfy and healthier through the season.

With the impending holidays there are plenty of indoor problems that can afflict our pets. Aunt Mitty thinking that the family pet needs Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner as well can result in vomiting and diarrhea (aka pancreatitis) and a trip to the emergency vet. Onions and garlic can lead to diarrhea and vomiting, but can also result in severe anemias which can lead to shortness of breath and/or collapse.

Chocolate is commonly given as gifts or left out as a snack. A good rule of thumb with chocolate is that the darker chocolate has more potential to cause illness whereas white chocolate has the least. Chocolate can also cause vomiting and diarrhea, but also can potentially lead to irregular heartbeats, muscle tremors or even seizures. Many of us enjoy an alcoholic beverage to help celebrate (or forget) the holidays. Alcohol can also lead to severe intoxication in our pets and while some of us may find it humorous to watch our pets staggering around, it can lead to an extended stay at the vet.

Christmas decorations can be hazardous as well. Chewing on electrical cords can result in burns to the mouth or electrocution. Garlands and tinsels may be your cat’s favorite play thing, but can create what veterinarians refer to as a linear foreign body requiring surgery to correct the bunched up intestines. Poinsettia plants contain a toxin in their sap which can lead to excessive salivation and vomiting, while [live] mistletoe can result in shock and sudden death if eaten in enough quantity.

The stress of family and the holidays can take a toll on us, but just don’t forget that our pets are used to seeing the immediate family on a regular basis. Allowing a place for your cats to go and hide and the dog to get away from your nephew who is trying ride him like a horse, will go a long way in reducing their stress in what should be a happy time.

For those of you going away to a warm place during the winter, remember to make your boarding reservations early because the boarding facilities generally book up early, especially around the holidays.

Who knows, maybe jetting off to a warmer climate is the answer to dealing with the holidays and family.

Maybe I’ll find out one of these days.

Erick Muehlenbein, DVM, is a veterinarian with Animal Clinics of Rough & Ready and Penn Valley.

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