The holiday season approaches! As we look forward to all the festivities, many of us in the veterinary field anticipate an influx of cases that don’t always hold much of that holiday spirit. It’s a known trend for euthanasia, emergency, and critical medicine cases to be on the rise – there’s a lot going on in our hospitals during the holiday season (aside from a breakroom full of holiday gifts and treats from our amazing clients) and here’s what you can do to best prepare your pets so we avoid having to see you during this busy time (as much as we love you).
Whether you’re flying/driving or bringing/leaving your fur kids. Be prepared ahead of time.
- Set up vet care while you’re away with your pet sitter, make sure your pet care provider has your best contact information and set them up with payment for care. Talk to them about being your healthcare proxy for your pets and have these discussions ahead of time.
- Know how your pets respond in these settings: will they be stressed? Do they get nauseous in the car?
- If you’re traveling with your pet, find a local vet clinic near your place of travel, be familiar with their hours and bring a copy of your vet records just in case you must seek care from another hospital
- Please see us beforehand to get help with calming aids, nausea in car rides, and get those health concerns addressed that you may have been putting off before you add travel and holiday stress to the mix
- Don’t forget vaccinations! Those are required by boarding facilities and ideally you want your dogs/cats to be able to recover from these vaccines before putting them in an environment that’s not their own
It’s not just you that’s stressed about the in-laws coming to town 😉
Stress colitis is a big deal for some pets and it can be unexpected, here are some tips to be prepared.
- Make an appointment to get anxiety, calming medications if needed
- Stock up on probiotics, plain organic canned pumpkin, and your bland home cooking diet essentials
- Get your pet used to large crowds of people if possible, make a quiet place for them where they can feel safe when they get overwhelmed – white noise generators also help
- Adaptil and Feliway, plug those things in ASAP!
- Freeze kongs with bland items such as pumpkin, whole milk plain yogurt etc. for distraction when lots of company starts arriving/noise level starts to increase/champagne bottles start popping etc.
- Add an extra litter box to a quiet area or room, lots of cats get bladder cystitis from stress
- Every guest that rings the doorbell and walks in should provide your pet with a treat if it’s possible – this can be comforting to your dogs
- Yankee candles, essential oils – they make our home smell wonderful, but remember that dogs and cats are incredibly sensitive to smell. Provide ventilation in your home or allow your pets to have a place where they can escape the strong scents. Strong scents and overstimulation of any kind can cause stress
Feasts and good eats
Halloween candy, Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham, New Years desserts… it’s just not worth it.
Pancreatitis cases are on the rise when lots of goodies are around. While we want to include our pets in all the festivities, avoid any experimenting with foods at this time. There are safe bland things you can give but please avoid the rich, indulgent foods it makes the pancreas pretty angry.
- Boiled meats: turkey, chicken, LEAN ground beef, LEAN pork etc. are okay – No spices
- Veggies and fruits are okay – please reference the ASPCA toxic food list first
- If you want to get fancy for your pets this holiday season, please get a homecooking recipe from our practice.
- If you’re pet decides to take matters into their own hands (paws) and eat things they shouldn’t, first see if it’s a toxic food and call us immediately. If it’s something like Thanksgiving Turkey- monitor them and at the first sign of vomiting/diarrhea call us right away. Don’t wait.
- If your pet eats chocolate, take a picture of the wrapper, quantify how much has been eaten and call us immediately, and be prepared to leave right away – there’s a small window of how much time we must induce vomiting
- Christmas tree water is a dog’s favorite holiday drink to sneak, but keep it far away and concealed. It can make them incredibly sick.
The types of holiday emergencies we see vary. Foreign body ingestion is a big one, but dog fights with visiting dogs, hit by car cases where guests are leaving the house doors open, toxin ingestion with poinsettias, mistletoe, lilies all around (as well as chocolate, grapes, raisins, sugar-free candy etc.), electric cord shock etc. are all things to have on your radar, here are some tips:
- Tinsel, Christmas ornaments, new Christmas toys, wrapping paper etc. create a foreign body wonderland for our pets. Please hang ornaments high on the trees, avoid Tinsel if you have kitties who can’t help themselves and look for the following if you suspect a foreign body
- Decreased appetite, lethargy, lots of vomiting, no bowel movement
- If you see a string/tinsel/ribbon poking out of the mouth or anus, DO NOT PULL – get on the phone with a vet immediately
- Important information we’re going to need: how many times has your pet vomited, what did they swallow and when, has there been a bowel movement
- Toxin ingestion is serious and requires immediate attention. If you suspect or know please reach out to us promptly
- Toxic Plants: Mistletoe, poinsettias, Lillie just to name a few
- Toxic foods: grapes, raisins, xylitol (sugar free gum/candy), rodenticide just to name a few
- ASPCA Toxic plant list
- Traumatic injuries are scary, stressful, and require immediate attention. Stop active bleeding sites with cloth/gauze/towels etc. and apply pressure if you can safely (remember your dog and cat may be in excruciating pain). Put your cat in a carrier and a leash/collar on your dog if possible, call us or emergency while you’re on your way. Stay calm. Stay safe. Be prepared that your pet may be taken from you as soon as you arrive to get them stabilized.
- An important thing to remember, general practices often close for the holidays and just like you many of our staff members take time off so this means there are less staff and doctors among all hospitals and are working hard to provide the best care. This also means that emergency practices are inundated. So don’t wait, call right away, provide us with as much information as you can and be as patient as you can.
- Duct tape your cords to the ground, hide them under carpets/rugs, and unplug them when you’re not around to supervise. Electric cords can cause life threatening trauma if bitten.
- Remember that dog behavior can be unpredictable in times of stress and commotion. They may like their “doggie cousins” in some situations but in other times when there’s a lot going on, maybe not so much. Put away all toys and bones to avoid confrontations, give dogs breaks from each other, and always supervise. Always make sure dogs are vaccinated before having them visit your home, and if scuffles occur, never break them up with your hands – use spray bottles, distracting noise, throw a pillow/blanket into the mix to separate them – be careful. If wounds occur, please call your vet for injured parties to get seen and cared for.
End of life
One of the best things about the holidays is that they bring families together, but it also may mean that it creates a rare opportunity for everyone to say goodbye to a beloved pet. For this reason, among many, is why our euthanasia cases increase during this time. Below are some ways that you can prepare and some resources that you may find helpful:
- Assessing Quality of life: please see this guide https://www.lapoflove.com/quality-of-life-assessment and discuss the answers with your vet
- Remember that this is first a consult with your medical provider and should be discussed in advance so that an appointment can be properly scheduled to allow for the best experience for you, your family, and your pet. Your veterinarian must also examine the patient to make sure that euthanasia is appropriate.
- There may be at home options to consider as well: https://www.lapoflove.com/
- Things to think about before you arrive:
- Would you like your pet cremated?
- Would you like to bring your pet home to bury?
- Would you like to be in the room for the entire process?
- Would you like a paw print or hair clippings?
- Remember to take collars home with you so you can cherish them.
- Many clients have questions about how this process is done and what to expect, this is to give you somewhat of an idea below (it can vary based on the status of your pet and your veterinarian):
- First, an exam/consult is performed to establish that this is the humane option for your beloved pet
- Second, a catheter is placed, this can be done in or out of the room. This is for ease of medication administration.
- Third, sedation is provided to allow your pet to relax, this might be the first good sleep your pet has had in a while so sometimes they will snore during this initial injection. This allows time for your final goodbyes and reflection.
- Fourth, the final euthanasia injection is administered which will stop the heart, your vet will then listen to confirm. You may spend as long as you need with your pet afterwards, we know the toll this can take on your heart and truly empathize.
While we hope that no one’s holiday ends this way, know that you’re not alone in experiencing grief and stress during a time where things are always expected to be joyous and happy. We are here for our community, you and your pets, and understand that emergencies and difficult decisions do happen.
From all of us at Whole Pet: be safe, be happy and be healthy.
We’re sending the best holiday wishes and we’re here to help.