Holiday Pet Safety: Highlights
- From December 15, 2020-January 2, 2021 (a period that traditionally sees an increase in online searches for an emergency vet), Google searches for ‘ER vet’ were most popular in the state of Colorado, where searches were five times more popular than in California and Texas.
- Other states where Google searches for ‘ER vet’ were most popular during the specified time frame include: Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Washington, California, and Texas.
- Colorado, Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas also rank in the Top 10 over the five-year period from December 2016 to December 2021 for states where searches for ‘ER vet’ have been the most popular overall. (Utah ranks as #1).
- The most common holiday hazards for pets include toxic plants, anti-freeze, rock salt, wired lights, broken ornaments, and toxic foods.
A recent survey of over 1,000 U.S. pet owners found that a large number of Americans not only give their pets Christmas presents but additionally prepare them holiday meals and include them in holiday activities such as scenic drives to enjoy neighborhood light displays.
However, not all holiday treats and traditions are safe for pets. An analysis of Google Trends data for the past five years shows that Google searches for ‘ER vet’ typically see a peak in the U.S. during the week of Thanksgiving as well as the last two weeks of December. Discover where Google searches for ‘ER vet’ are most popular during the December holiday season in particular, and learn about the holiday pet hazards families should be aware of in order to keep their companion animals safe.
Holiday Pet Safety: Methodology
For the purpose of this study, the Special Reports Team at Veterinarians.org analyzed data from Google Trends for the search term ‘ER vet.’ The team focused on data specifically for the period of time beginning on December 15, 2020 and ending on January 2, 2021. Based on an analysis of five years’ worth of data, this time frame traditionally shows peaks in U.S. searches for the specified search term. Using this data, the team then ranked the top states where searches for ‘ER vet’ were the most popular during the given time period.
Christmas Hazards for Pets: States with the Most Holiday Searches for Emergency Vets
Since 2016, Google searches for ‘ER vet’ have traditionally peaked around the holiday season, especially during the month of December, where searches increase from the middle of the month onward.
Here are the states where Google searches for ‘ER vet’ were the most popular during December 15, 2020-January 2, 2021.
U.S. Searches for ‘ER Vet’ between December 15, 2020 – January 2, 2021
(Image courtesy of Google Trends. Captured 12-07-21.)
- North Carolina
Google searches for ‘ER vet’ were most popular in the state of Colorado, where searches were five times more popular than in California and Texas.
Interestingly, nearly half of the states on the list (Colorado, Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas) also rank in the Top 10 over the five-year period from December 2016 to December 2021 for states where searches for ‘ER vet’ have been the most popular overall.
Christmas Pet Safety: Holiday Safety Tips for Pets
Google searches for an emergency vet traditionally see an increase from the middle of December onward to the end of the month and through New Year’s Day. As families decorate their homes for the holiday season and prepare meals for special gatherings, companion animals are exposed to more dangers than usual.
Below are some of the most common holiday pet hazards families should be aware of:
Christmas trees often attract the attention of dogs and cats alike. However, if a tree is not securely anchored, it can potentially fall onto and injure an animal. Tree water also poses a danger, as bacteria is known to grow and thrive in sitting water, which may cause gastrointestinal upset in an animal if ingested, as can any added Christmas tree fertilizer.
After securing a Christmas tree to a wall or ceiling, pet owners should block the tree off with a playpen, baby gate, or other barrier to keep pets safe while additionally covering the tree stand with aluminum foil to discourage pets from drinking from it.
Mistletoe, Holly, and Other Seasonal Plants
The ASPCA receives over a quarter of a million cases of potential animal poisonings per year. Plants are the eighth-most reported pet toxin and account for 40% of all calls. Seasonal plants such as mistletoe, holly, lilies, azaleas, evergreens, and poinsettias are all toxic to animals. Ingestion of such plants can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, even cardiovascular issues. Cats in particular are especially vulnerable to lilies, which can cause kidney failure if ingested.
In a home filled with pets, artificial plants are the safest option when it comes to holiday decor. There are many pet-friendly plants available to select from which will keep companion animals safe.
Anti-Freeze and Ice Melt
Ethylene glycol, an ingredient commonly found in anti-freeze, is deadly to animals. Pet owners should opt for a brand that omits this ingredient and labels itself as ‘non-toxic.’
As for rock salt, this commonly used ice melt is an irritant to paw pads. If an animal licks irritated paws as a result of walking on rock salt, ingesting the chemical can cause vomiting. Ice melts with a propylene glycol base are a safer alternative for households with animals.
Lights and Batteries
Electrical cords, such as those attached to wired holiday lights, can be an especially dangerous hazard to animals. If chewed on, such cords may result in an electric shock that can be potentially lethal to a pet.
Pet owners should always hang tree lights on high branches while also protecting electrical cords with cord covers or double-sided tape and additionally keeping cords out of sight where possible. Pet owners should also keep batteries out of a pet’s reach, both those that operate holiday decor and those included in new Christmas gifts. Batteries may contain zinc, which can cause pancreatitis in an animal if ingested.
Ornaments and Tinsel
Ornaments are another danger to pets. Shards of broken ornaments can cut a pet’s mouth and tear into the animal’s digestive tract. Pet owners should always hang breakable ornaments out of a pet’s reach or opt for pet-safe, non-toxic, and non-edible ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree.
Cats are especially drawn to tinsel and other types of ribbons, but if ingested, these items can cause an obstruction in a cat’s digestive tract, which can lead to vomiting and severe dehydration. In many cases, surgery may be the only means of removing the obstruction.
Food and Alcohol
While it may seem harmless to share human food with a pet, foods are one of many pet toxins popularly reported to the ASPCA, making up more than 20% of all poison-related calls.
Chocolate and other foods containing xylitol (baked goods, peanut butter, candy, and pudding among them) are dangerous to pets. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause liver failure and even death in dogs and cats.
Additionally, hard candy like candy canes are a choking hazard to animals, as are turkey and chicken bones. If such bones splinter when ingested, they may also cause tears in an animal’s digestive tract.
Raw dough also poses a risk. If ingested, raw dough can expand inside an animal’s digestive tract and cause severe bloating, making it difficult for an animal to breathe. If the raw dough contains yeast, this may also cause a pet’s blood alcohol level to rise, which may lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol intoxication in animals can result in vomiting, disorientation, and seizures. If left untreated, it can ultimately lead to organ failure. As little as just a few ounces of alcohol can result in a pet’s death in just 12-24 hours. In addition to alcoholic beverages, alcohol can also be found in some syrups, eggnog, and holiday breads.
In addition to keeping table scraps and other dangerous foods and drinks out of a pet’s reach, pet owners should also secure trash bins to discourage foraging. Keeping a pet comfortably confined in a bedroom or in a crate during holiday dinner parties can also keep an animal safe.
Holiday Pet Safety: Final Thoughts
Many pet owners may remain unaware of the potential holiday-related hazards in their household which may pose a risk to the health and wellbeing of their pets. Given the increase in Google searches for emergency veterinarians during the holiday season, the issue is one that requires increased awareness. While the dangers to which pets may be exposed during the holiday season are many, with proper education, families can keep their companion animals safe while still including them in holiday traditions.