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Mind Your Pet This Holiday Season

Christmas trees, poinsettias and tinsel. All three are signs that the holiday season is here and while they provide stunning visuals, they could pose harm to your furry little friends, says one Garden City Park veterinarian.


Pet safety during the holidays is crucial, according to Dr. Keith Niesenbaum of Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital in Garden City Park. For him, the leading cause of increased trips to the vet after the holidays is vomiting from eating too much table food. He has worked for Crawford since 2001.


“The big thing is people tend to feed pets from the table,” said Niesenbaum. “That can cause gastrointestinal upset and if they’re having poultry, you don’t want them getting into the bones or something like that. Chocolate is a definite no-no.”


Niesenbaum also suggests that Christmas trees, most notably the real ones, pose significant issues to pets and it’s more common to see dogs affected. The water in the tree stand can sicken animals because of certain fertilizers, or bacteria found in the water. 


“That can really get them sick,” he said. “You don’t want them eating parts of the tree. Animals and aspirin in the water is a bad combination.” 


Christmas ornaments can become a problem, especially with cats. Tinsel is a popular toy for felines during the season. “When it’s hanging on the tree, it’s asking to be grabbed,” he said. “We need to make sure they don’t get near that stuff because it can cause intestinal blockage and may need surgery to fix.”


New toys from Santa Claus need care as well. Niesenbaum said he’s seen and removed everything in pets from pacifiers to LEGOs.


“Keep the small toys away from pets, especially dogs,” he stated. “Anything they can swallow can get stuck in their intestines.”


Holiday travel, according to Niesenbaum, centers on familiarity and comfort for pets. If you’re traveling by plane and happen to have a big pet not used to it, try to board a direct flight so the pet is not in the cargo area or on the runway for an extended period of time. If a smaller pet needs a flight, try to carry it on.  


“Find out exactly what flight requirements are,” he said. “We prefer to not sedate animals when traveling by air. If there’s a problem at 30,000 feet, it’s not good.”


If traveling by car, Niesenbaum noted that new medications are available to prevent vomiting in the car. “Dogs tend to settle down once they’re in the car,” he said. “When it comes to pet safety, you know your pet so take any precautions you think should be taken and call your veterinarian.”