December 18, 2015
Christmas celebrations in families with pets are quite festive and lively in many ways – in fact, in three ways as I will explain. To illustrate this, let me tell you about my Christmas morning 2014 when family and friends were attending our Holiday Season gathering. At a certain point, I found myself sitting at the living-room table taking a break from serving food and drinks, and in-between two dishwasher loads. My mind was wandering when the scene in front of my eyes suddenly struck me. My mind took a Polaroid picture of this merry moment featuring 22 adults, 12 children, and 10 dogs. It’s during these two short seconds that seems to last forever that I discovered the three levels of ecosystem or activity strata which are taking place when several people gather, for Christmas family reunion for instance.
First, I saw family members and friends eating hors d’œuvre and sipping a glass of wine, and engaging with great joy in the small talks that are the rules in such gathering. Things happen five feet from the ground, and no one is aware of the bits of food stolen by children, the second strata of the group. At two to three feet from the ground, I could see that the little human monsters were taking advantage of the lack of supervision to stuff themselves exclusively of chips, cheese, candies and chocolate without being concerned at all by the notion of food groups. Running between chairs, under the tables and between the legs of the grown ones, children were completely ignored by their parents and other guests, but not from the dogs, the third strata of the group, which were pretty active at one and a half feet from the ground. The ten dogs understood pretty quickly that the little rascals of the party were their best opportunity to grab extraordinary delights! Dogs followed children and ate everything they could. Now that you know all this you must make sure to select very carefully what you serve to humans if you don’t a wonderful gathering to conclude on a nightmarish note for whether you want it or not, dogs will end up eating the same food as your guests.
In summary, avoid chocolate (very toxic for animals). Check where you put the garbage bags that contain leftovers and table scraps. Your dogs will find them in no time and pig out on their content, digestible or not (plastic bags, pieces of bones, wood pieces, etc.).
To start with, eating too much rich and fatty food cause an inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), a very painful and searing indigestion (vomiting, diarrhea, a very passive state) that will require emergency medical care. The swallowing of foreign bodies will also require medical care and in some cases, emergency surgery to remove them (bones, pieces of bones, wood pieces and other) from the intestine. Needless to say, there are more pleasant ways to end a Christmas evening.
As for cats they love all things linear such as gift wrap ribbons, threads, strands of wool, Christmas tinsel, but also the string of the famous Christmas ham that tastes so good. In fact, the cute image of a kitten playing with a length of string is the premise of a very invasive surgery of the small intestine because the string follows the bowel movement and cuts the intestine like a saw. Signs of ingestion are the same for cats and dogs (vomiting, diarrhea, passive state) and require emergency surgery.
Last but not least, when choosing your Holiday Season decorations, choose plants that are safe and edible for pets. Remember that a new red thing in the middle of the living room is always very tempting. “Just a little bite to see what it tastes!” In fact, the poinsettia is not the most harmful plant for pets (it causes mild digestive disorder). The whole family of lilies and narcissus are more harmful, causing causes vomiting, diarrhea, arrhythmia, and convulsions. English holly and the mistletoe and its fruits are highly harmful, causing vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, and cardiorespiratory listlessness. In doubt, consult your veterinarian. He/she will be able to provide you with a full list of toxic plants and their clinical signs. If your cat or dog could not resist the temptation of tasting a piece of leaves, fruit or flower, bring it to the veterinarian as well as the plant. It will help your veterinarian make a quick and efficient diagnosis.
To conclude, I wish you a happy Holiday Season with your unconditional loving pets. I also remind you that if you wish to share your life with a four-legged friend, contact the SPCA, SPA or an animal shelter.