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TO: Pet Parents: Holiday Pet Emergencies & How To Avoid Them (from an Emergency Veterinary Nurse)

Updated: Apr 11

Happy holidays pet parents from your favorite Veterinary Nurse! My name is Katie, I'm an RVT (registered veterinary technician) in emergency veterinary nursing and today I'm sharing common pet emergencies we see at the ER during the holidays and advice on how to avoid them.

Emergency #1: Foreign Body Ingestions

(real life) Examples:

-bones (chicken, beef), rawhide chews, bully sticks, greenies, dental chews

-dog toys (fabric & plastic, bells)

-children's toys

-clothing items (socks, underwear, drawstrings, shoes and shoe strings, hair ties, ribbon material, leather belts)

-Personal hygiene items (tampons, Qtips, razorblade heads, baby diapers, feminine products)

-Home items (batteries, sewing needles, earrings, coins)

*Pet Safety tip: always directly supervise when giving dogs items such as rawhides, bully sticks and even Greenies.

*I do NOT recommend feeding any Christmas dog bones as they can be obstructive and are known to contain harsh chemicals.

*I do NOT recommend feeding "t-bones" as they can be easily broke into multiple small pieces, and swallowed, possibly creating a GI obstruction.

*Keep small items out of reach or put away.

*Be mindful if your dog or cat is KNOWN to eat particular items such as hair ties or socks.

If you do witness the ingestion, call your family vet or an after hours urgent care/emergency hospital to bring your pet in for us to induce vomiting (if recommended by your vet).

*The use of hydrogen peroxide is no longer recommended to give at home unless instructed by a Vet (with an appropriate dose to do so), as this chemical, while helpful, can cause significant irritation and inflammation to your pets esophagus.

*Making them vomit the item up ASAP can likely prevent your pet from having surgery or endoscopy (camera based retrieval) to retrieve the ingested item (these procedures require general anesthesia) and help you avoid a very expensive hospital surgery & stay.

*Foreign body retrieval surgeries cost several thousands $$$$ of dollars (national average $3k-$8k) and can have the potential to become fatal if the blockage is not addressed in an appropriate amount of time.

Emergency #2: Household Fighting

Often times we see the weakest link walk (or is typically carried) into our ER all beat up with terrible wounds or a gouging laceration from a dog fighting encounter.

My safety tip here is if you're giving a special treat for the holiday, be sure to feed your pets seperately.

Keep direct supervision the entire time while they eat their yummy treat and the same applies when introducing new toys.

Also, if you have a new family pet over, keep this in mind and allow them to have an appropriate introduction. PSA: not all dogs/cats will like each other just like humans!

(Video) Dog Fight Wound Examples *WARNING* -Some images may be very graphic, so please watch at your own discretion. May not be appropriate for children.

Emergency #3: Bladder flare-up, Urethral Obstruction, & Diarrhea (caused by stress)

I speak more to cat parents on this one since cats are weird and can experience flare-ups simply from being stressed out. This can include more commonly in our female cats, a stress-induced cystitis flare up that results in a UTI, or in a male cat, a stress-induced ureathral blockage which is a life threatening medical emergency.

In dogs who have a history of IBS, stress can trigger bouts of diarrhea, and can in some cases cause moderate to severe dehydration, which can get serious quick and require hospitalization.

Safety tip: Be mindful of the environment you create this holiday. Keep your scaredy cats & dogs secluded in a happy and safe environment while friends, family and even family pet members visit.

*If introducing pets for the first time, make sure to do so in a controlled and safe manner.

Things that can be holiday triggers for easily stressed pets:

-new people

-children (playing, screaming, laughing sounds, chasing the pet)

-new pets (new christmas kitten or puppy, or newly adopted pet)

-other animals passing by outside the home

-furniture movement or rearrangement

-traveling (with our without the pet)

-loud noises

-changes in feeding schedule

Emergency #4: Electrocution

Ah the cliche' saying of "curosity killed the cat".....-well it certainly remains true.

Keep close eyes on your feline friends that like to chew on things. Sometimes it happens and pet parents dont even know.

Signs/Symptoms typically reported:

-The pet stops eating

-hypersalivation "drooling"

-strong burnt skin aroma in their mouths

-hiding behaviors

-extending their neck

-sitting still more than often

Electrocution is a medical emergency so if you suspect this to be so for your pet please seek veterinary medical help as soon as possible.

Emergency #5: Loose & Lost pets

Between stressful events like fireworks at New Years and guests entering & exiting your home often, pets commonly get loose or lost more during this time of year.

*My safety tip reminder here is to safely contain your pets while having visitors over, especially children who may unintentionally leave a door open when going out to play.

The unfortunate truth I want to share with you is when pets are loose or lost they have a high risk of being HBC (hit-by-car) or wounded by another animal. Please dont let that be your pet during this holiday season. It always sucks as the veterinary professional to see owners have to elect euthansia because of events like this where they dont have enough funds to save their pet. These type of emergencies get expensive quickly and typically require heavy hands-on stabilization, expensive pain medications, several days in hospital and even an extensive surgery for fracture repairs or to stop internal bleeding. Afterwards you could be looking at weeks to months of bandage changes and continued wound care.

Emergency #6: Toxin Ingestions

No matter the type of ingestion, the very first thing you should always do is contact a Pet Poison Center.

The 2 pet poison centers in the USA are "ASPCA Pet Poison Control" & "Pet Poison Helpline". Both will charge a small fee to consult ($75-$95), but its 100% worth it and will guide your veterinarian's treatment, if its needed. You will get a case number from them that is given to the doctor in order to consult with a veterinary toxicologist. On the flip side maybe they'll tell you the ingestion was within the margin of safety and you'll be able to avoid a trip to the ER altogether (and save your money! $$$)

*As a reminder, its not recommended anymore to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide at home (hydrogen peroxide can cause burns to the esophagus, and result in painful tissue damage), so please let us help! Why you ask? Younger and older pets especially are at a higher risk for aspiration if the emetics such as hydrogen peroxide are forced down.

In some cases, it can lead to aspiration pneumonia (infection in the lungs, which can become deadly if not treated appropriately).

Additionally, the ingested item or fluid may not be safe to come back up.

During the holidays we commonly see the following toxic ingestions:

-chocolate (theobromine)

-marijuana (and some illicit drugs)

-owners/childrens medications (albuterol inhalers, blood pressure meds, adderall)

-xylitol artificial sweetener (added to baked goods, candies, & chocolate desserts)

-grapes, onions, various nuts

-Poinsettia flowers

-Lilly flowers


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