Humans love holidays, but for their furry friends, the holidays can be some of the most dangerous days of the year.
New Year’s Eve is an especially difficult night for dogs, who, when spooked, can be quick to run out the door and get lost, said Minty Pickering, a technician at Tooele Veterinary Clinic.
The clinic, which also serves as the county animal shelter, typically brings in a half a dozen lost pets after New Year’s, compared to just one or two lost pets in an average week, she said.
It’s usually best to put pets in a quiet room during the festivities and to keep the door closed, said Julie Higgins, a manager at the Tooele City Animal Shelter. Pet owners may not pay as much attention to their pets while wrangling children, enjoying themselves among friends or playing party host—and many a dog has escaped out into the night, she said.
The good news, Higgins said, is that with the cold weather, lost dogs won’t wander as far from home, and are therefore more likely to be found by their owners.
Nonetheless, Pickering said microchipping or tagging a dog with some form of identification can make a big difference in whether the animal is returned to its owners. And it’s not just dogs that get lost on New Year’s—cats, and even horses, are known to spook and run away from home.
Pickering cautioned that the holidays can hold more hazards for pets than just fireworks. Christmas leftovers, such as tinsel, glass decorations and mistletoe, have all been reasons for a trip to the local vet, she said. Edible leftovers, likewise, can cause problems if food is fed to pets or left out where pets gain access to it. Turkey fat, for example, can be toxic to dogs, Pickering said.
With recent temperatures in the single digits, Pickering said that frostbite is a real concern for outdoor pets. She recommended that pet owners bring their animals inside the house on exceptionally cold nights. But so far, she said, her clinic hasn’t had too many frostbite cases—which can require amputation—come in this year.
The most common season-related health concern the clinic has treated this year is weight loss, she said. In order to stay warm during the winter, animals will burn through additional calories to create body heat. Pet owners should keep this in mind, and consider feeding their pet more food during colder months, said Pickering.