(Mother Nature Network) -- Every year around this time, I think about hospital emergency rooms nationwide overflowing with holiday-related injuries. Unfortunately, veterinarians also see their share of holiday mishaps.
At Eagle's Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia, the season of discontented tummies started a few months ago. One four-legged patient consumed a fabric Halloween decoration. Cost of extraction: $1,000.
Pets eat some crazy things, including holiday decorations. Veterinary Pet Insurance even has a contest for the most unusual insurance claim. Their Hambone award pays tribute to a dog that got trapped in the refrigerator and ate a Thanksgiving ham before being rescued.
To help dog and cat owners maintain a festive yet safe atmosphere, Dr. Joey Fraser of Eagle's Landing offers these tips:
Watch pets around decorations: For pets, the holidays usher in a wealth of new sights, sounds and scents. "Part of the fun is seeing how they respond," Fraser says. But if your pet fixates on certain items, avoid leaving the animal unattended around holiday decor.
For dogs, that may mean kennel time. (And if you need one more reason to consider the crate, here's a great video of holiday destruction that underscores the need to keep pets and holiday decorations separated!)
Cats, of course, present a different set of challenges.
"Cats are harder; they do all the bad stuff when you are not looking," says Fraser, who owns two dogs and three cats. Over the years, her cats have been known to climb the Christmas tree and knock ornaments down. "I've heard of some people having a squirt gun handy. Most cats lose interest pretty quickly."
Keep food gifts out of reach: Even if your pet has earned a bone, a sachet of catnip or a bag full of Scooby snacks wrapped with a bow, keep those gifts out of paw's reach. "Most dogs can smell that and will unwrap it to get it out," Fraser says.
Watch for tummy troubles: If you do suspect that your pet has consumed something suspect, keep an eye out. "The dog may be hunched over or act like it's hurt," she says. Other warning signs include diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite. If these symptoms persist, call your veterinarian.
"I really worry if the pet is vomiting and can't hold anything down," Fraser says.
Ban table scraps: 'Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. Just make sure to monitor what your pet consumes. It may be best to limit the number of people in charge of daily feedings. A hilarious YouTube video called "Fed Up" shows a dog reaping rewards and regrets of begging for table scraps.
"A dog will eat anything. Be sure that tasty things are out of reach," Fraser warns, noting that raisins and grapes have been linked to kidney failure in dogs. "Let friends and family know that it's not OK to feed the animals anything."
For a list of dangerous household products, and tips in case of an emergency, bookmark the ASPCA's Poison Control site.
Watch the flora, too: Plants make easy green gifts. But some plants can be toxic to pets. For example, lilies are highly toxic to cats. Check out the ASPCA list of toxic plants before adding greenery to your home.
I hope these tips help protect the festive items on display at your home. Have a lovely holiday!
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