Our fur babies are family members, so of course, we want to spoil them during the holiday season! While we wholeheartedly encourage this behavior (within limits), there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure toys and gifts are safe so you don’t end up spending your holidays in a veterinary emergency room.

About Treats

Most of the foods we humans are eating during the holidays are not appropriate for pets. Fatty or oily foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs. Bones can easily splinter, leading to mouth or internal injuries. Rawhide can not only upset pets’ tummies, but it can become impacted and lead to gastrointestinal blockages. (More on that below!) Homemade playdough or ornaments are commonly made with salt dough, which is toxic to our pets.

But don’t despair – there are plenty of safe and healthy things to offer your pets as treats this holiday. Dental treats are not only yummy, they help reduce plaque and tartar buildup in pets’ teeth. Look for ones approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Most fruits and veggies, including apples, carrots, blueberries, and more, are beloved by dogs and even some cats. Review this list of safe and delicious fruits and veggies that most pets love.

For something special, homemade treats are fun to make during the holiday season. There are many recipes online for simple dog and cat treats made of wholesome ingredients like peanut butter, pumpkin, and apple. You can even use festive cookie cutters for added fun!

Good and Not-So-Good Gifts

Let’s face it, the gift your pet would love most of all is your time – especially over the busy holiday season. A long walk will calm your dog (and you!) and 10 minutes of playtime will keep your cat happy and healthy. If you want to buy a gift, interactive, durable toys are great options. They keep your pets moving and stimulate them mentally. Scratching posts, squeaky toys, balls, tug toys, and interactive puzzle feeders are all good choices.

Accidents (Foreign Body Ingestions) Happen!

Unfortunately, sometimes pets eat something inedible that won’t pass through their GI tract, otherwise known as foreign body ingestion. These are some of the more common emergencies seen in the emergency room during the holiday season. There are just so many new, enticing things to play with! Irresistibly crinkly paper, decorations that move and make noise, sparkly ornaments, dangly ribbons, tiny toys, new shoes, delicious-smelling candles – well, you get the idea.

If not removed, foreign bodies can cause GI blockages, toxicity, choking, perforation of internal organs, or complications with the heart or lungs, all of which can be fatal. While some foreign bodies can be removed with an endoscope, most require exploratory surgery and removal, which means a costly hospital stay for your fur baby.

Call your veterinarian immediately if you know your pet has swallowed something, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of foreign body ingestion. Signs include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and hunched posture
  • Dehydration
  • Anorexia
  • Gagging and salivating
  • Constipation and straining to defecate

What are some of the things we’ve removed from pets here at the COVE?

  • Lots and lots of squeakers, especially from inexpensive holiday toys that are easily destroyed
  • Light bulbs from Christmas string lights
  • Ribbons from presents and decorations (we’re looking at you, kitties!)
  • Knots on the end of rawhide chews – these are a severe choking hazard, in addition to a GI issue
  • Ornament hooks
  • Stuffing from new dog beds. (If your dog’s life goal is to destroy dog beds, consider spending more on a more durable bed. After all, would you rather spend $100 on a bed or $5,000 for a surgical procedure?)

Here are some additional tips on keeping the holidays safe for your pets. We also strongly recommend protecting your dog or cat with pet insurance, which can help cover the costs of veterinary care, including emergency visits. Read more about the value of pet insurance in this blog.

And remember, if the worst happens, The COVE is open 24/7/365 – that includes every holiday. If you need us, day or night, call 757-935-9111. We wish you and your furry loved ones a happy – and healthy – holiday season!

About Us

The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.