Most dog and cat owners are aware that the holidays can be a dangerous time for our furry companions – I had a cat who used to eat all ribbons. My Christmas tree looked so sad with boring packages beneath it. That is, until I got a cat who ate the tree. So bye-bye Christmas tree and branches all around the house.
Our exotic pets have some of the same issues. Birds, rabbits and rodents should be on the lookout for the following:
- Holiday trees and Plants can have toxins in or on them – some trees are sprayed with chemicals and the water at the base may have fertilizers in it. Toxic holiday plants include
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Holly (Iles spp.)
- Mistletoe (Viscum album)
- Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
- Yew (Cephalotaxus sp.)
- Lilies, Laurel and Christmas Rose
- Decorations run the gamut of possible problems.
- Physical hazards such as getting stuck in them and wounds due to broken glass or metal parts.
- Holiday decorations are often cheaply made and may be contaminated with toxic metals.
- Tinsel and ribbons can cause obstruction in the stomach or intestines.
- Metallic wrapping paper can be either a toxin or cause an obstruction.
- Electric Wires are often in new and fun spaces – they may cause burns and even death if a pet bites down too hard.
- Fumes and Smoke.
- Scented candles, room fresheners, ornaments…
- Extra household cleaning with strong chemicals
- Avoid fire logs that contain toxins or smoky irritants which are a special hazard to birds.
- Cooking – holidays often mean an increase in kitchen activity
- More pots of boiling water, hot pans, cookies or candies available for stealing.
- The usual suspects should not be shared with pets (caffeine, avocado, alcohol and chocolate).
- Avoid novel or excessive food sharing because these can cause GI upset.
- Holiday Stress is not just for humans.
- Novel decorations, increased activity, visitors and guests can all be upsetting for some of our more shy pets.
- Guests that are not familiar with birds, rabbits and rodents may not be able to read their body language – and no one wants a “bite-fling” injury!
- I recommend discouraging furry visitors – unless your pet has previously been introduced – because the holidays are hard enough without bringing a predator into the home.
Just in case – know when your veterinarian is open (or closed) this December/January, know which emergency clinic you can take your exotic pet to, and know the poison control phone number ASPCA (888) 426-4435.