Merry Christmas! (and other seasonal pet risks)

‘Tis the season for celebration – Christmas is in the air!  Many of us are in full swing preparing for the holiday season.  That includes your friendly veterinarians and staff here at Park Veterinary Centre in Sherwood Park. It is an exciting time for pets and people alike! There are oodles of things to consider at this time of year as we prepare for guests and visiting:  meals and treats to serve, decorations to put up, and of course, presents. If you are a pet owner, other considerations should include how to keep your pet healthy through the holidays and mitigation of seasonal related risks. Accidental intoxication by dogs or cats can occur with chocolate, meats cooked in garlic or onions, and plant poisonings such as holly, mistletoe, or poinsettia. These potentially harmful toxins (as well as other winter risks such as cold stress and antifreeze ingestion) are generally well known by most pet owners; fortunately previous blogs and media articles each year have led to a higher level of awareness of these types of problems. It is also particularly important, though, for cat owners to bring only feline-friendly décor into the home.  Care must also be taken to make sure hazardous items are out of reach of curious kitties – tinsel and garland along with many other glittery holiday decorations serve as risks for intestinal obstruction if ingested accidentally (well, we call it accidental but the cat usually chews and swallows it on purpose). While decorating this season, all of us should also keep in mind risks to young puppies and dogs prone to ingesting things they should not.


Your animal health care team at Park Veterinary Centre would also like to remind those planning for the holidays about some less well-known toxins that could affect your pet this season. Many people are unaware of the hazard that uncooked bread dough could have on their pet if ingested. As dough rises, gasses are released. These gases can cause the stomach to distend (bloat) and this can cause severe abdominal pain and increase risk of a stomach twist (a medical emergency called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, or GDV). Not only that, but fermenting of yeasts in dough releases carbon dioxide and alcohol. Pets can become poisoned from such alcohol as it enters the blood stream. If your pet does eat uncooked yeast-containing dough, it is important to seek veterinary attention right away.


Another toxin that presents a big risk to pets is the artificial sweetener xylitol. For many people, this is mainly an issue if they chew sugar free gum, as many such gums are sweetened with xylitol.  It is possible to avoiding xylitol-containing gums when purchasing them – read the labels well. This pet-hazardous sweetener can also be present in certain baked goods or candies, and even in some home-baking ingredients as well. If a pet ingests xylitol, one of two things can happen. A rapid drop in blood glucose level can occur, causing a pet to become weak and stuporous, and even leading to seizures. Another more delayed-type reaction seen in dogs ingesting xylitol is liver damage which can sometimes be seen as sudden liver failure. This is a much more serious complication. Make sure to inquire if receiving home-baked goodies or treats this year if any baking contains xylitol, and ensure proper storage of any potentially edible gifts that may entice your pup or kitty to explore and become exposed to accidental toxins.


For those of you travelling to other countries this Christmas and New Year season, please resist the temptation you may have to rescue and bring back pets in need.   Though there are not many legislated barriers to bringing foreign pets back into Canada, there are profound reasons not to do so, including disease related risks both to your own pets and to your family (i.e. the human population)!  Please contact the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association if you would like more information in that regard.


Park Veterinary Centre maintains very client friendly hours during the holiday season, and we are happy to help in cases of emergency as well as routine care. If you have any questions about an accidental ingestion at home, the ASPCA Poison Control website link can be found under our Web Resources section at  That website is full of helpful advice and also has a real-time hotline to contact an ASPCA veterinarian after hours if needed.  Check out our many other interesting links as well!


All of our friendly fellow pet-lovers at Park Veterinary Centre wish you and yours a very happy and safe holiday season!  Please remember the Reason for the season, and let’s all follow the example of our pets as we bring cheer, and spread good will to others.