Tis the Season…for Holiday Fun and Mayhem!

Egg nog.

Christmas trees.

Turkey dinners. 


We all have our ideas of what represents the holiday season!  

For veterinarians and those in the veterinary industry, their thoughts may be a bit different than the general public. While we definitely look forward to the iconic Griswald family Christmas, there are a few other things that cross our (petrified) mind during this time. Our blog this time is to help prevent any of these Grinch fears from coming true and help you and your fur-babies enjoy the holiday season safely and away from our clinic – except of course if you’re bringing us tasty treats and a general check-up visit. 🙂

We want to celebrate with our pets and we should. We just need to be aware of what may harm them or what to be aware of. This list will obviously not cover all the major concerns but we will touch on the things we see most often. 

Pancreatitis/GI Upset

This one shouldn’t surprise anyone. Many of us refer to it as an upset stomach. Many of us suffer from some form of gastritis during and after the holidays. New food options, bigger portions, not as much exercise…it really can do a number on our intestinal tract. The same holds true for canine and feline patients, but even more so. Many of us feed our pets a very regimented diet. That means that their gut, or intestinal tract, does not have as diverse a population of good bacteria to recognize and digest new foods. (For our recommendations regarding feeding, please see our December 2018 blog!). This can create inflammation in the intestines, which then we see show as vomiting, diarrhea, not feeling well, and not wanting to eat. 

Careful what we put in those bowls!

Pancreatitis shows signs like gastritis, and is very common in smaller breeds. Many smaller breeds such as yorkies and chihuahuas are even more sensitive to certain types of foods affecting their pancreas. 

Please be careful and aware of what you are feeding your pets during this time of year to keep them happy and safe. Things we eat regularly such as macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic can greatly affect our pets! For more specific information, you can check out the Pet Health Network page

Chocolate toxicity/Xylitol toxicity 

Most of us know that pets cannot do well with chocolate. The chemical theobromine in chocolate is what affects dogs and cats differently than humans. Not only can it cause severe upset in the stomach, but its toxic effects come from what it does to the heart and the nervous system. The most concerning type of chocolate for dogs is dark chocolate. The more cocoa in the chocolate, the more toxic it is for our pets. Ensure that you keep your chocolate for those baking goods in a safe place!  How much is too much? Each pet is different, so always use caution when reading things online. Also, you know your pet best. If there is any concern, seek emergency care immediately. For a general guideline, the Animal Health Foundation explains some general rules about how much toxicity may be present with the amount of chocolate ingested.

Hot Cocoa the Cat

Xylitol is another ingredient that has found its way into popular baking dishes. It is a sweetener taking the place of sugar in many of our dishes.  Unfortunately for dogs and cats, their body does not respond well to this type of ‘sugar’! This means that they produce insulin to handle the sugar but there is actually no real sugar there. The danger comes from their sugar levels becoming dangerously low because of too much insulin, or hypoglycemia. There is a broad range for every pet with how they will react to this sweetener. Please be very careful with any exposure for this and your pets. Chewing gum is usually the most common way our fur family get themselves into trouble!

Tinsel, foreign material, I’m not sure what he ate…

We have all experienced the puppy who cannot stop chewing or the cat that won’t leave the Christmas tree alone. For the most part, these tend to be general and sometimes cute annoyances. However, the trouble arises when things get stuck somewhere along the 13 feet of intestines. 

Christmas toys, tinsel, socks, bones, and you name it, we’ve probably seen it work its way out on its own or on our surgery table. 

Keeping these things out of reach of curious critters is our best prevention, which can definitely prove difficult with a house full of guests, toys, and Christmas tree ornaments and decorations. Lack of interest in food and vomiting are the most commonly seen reactions to foreign material that is not passing through. If you see any of these and know that your pet has a history of being naughty with chewing, please contact us or your veterinarian to discuss diagnostic testing such as x-rays and ultrasound. 

Why am I here?

Acute medical crisis, wounds, etc

Uncle Billy showed up. He wasn’t really invited. Neither was his pack of wild dogs that he just acquired. Uh-oh.

We see many dog fight injuries and interactions from these type of situations or those similar to it. While dogs are pack animals, there is already heightened stress during the holiday season, with both us and our pets. This will increase the risk of negative interaction between animals, even those who have known each other for sometime.

Learning a dog’s way of communication

Dogs and cats often show us signs that they are feeling uncomfortable and the situation may be about to escalate. Knowing your pet and the signs they give (their body language) can help keep you out of a bad situation or the emergency vet hospital.

You’ll have to deal with Uncle Billy on your own though. 

Lost pets

It never fails that in the shuffle of guests coming, friends going, and us trying to figure out which way is up, one of our beloved pets finds a way to sneak outside. Sometimes, they will sneak somewhere inside the house as well. 

Finding our way home…

The holiday season is a very common time that pets go missing. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and that is why we recommend to ensure that your pet is always wearing some form of identification. We also recommend having your pet microchipped. This cannot be lost like a collar or harness and functions as a permanent form of identification. This way we can ensure that your baby is home on Christmas Day as much as possible. 

As always, thank you for stopping by our little informational blog. Hopefully you won’t have anything to worry about this holiday season, but just in case we are here if you need us. We know the holidays can be both merry and stressful, so please let us know how we can help. 

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a fantastic start to 2020!


Dr. Jessica Tracy and Blue Ridge Animal Hospital