South Charlotte

Help your pet stay on Santa’s ‘nice’ list during the holidays

Help keep your pet on Santa's nice list during the holidays

Expert advice to keep dogs and cats safe during festivities.
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Expert advice to keep dogs and cats safe during festivities.

If you own a dog or cat, in the midst of hanging the lights, decorating the tree, and baking cookies, set aside a few moments and make a plan to keep your pet safe during the holidays.

Dr. Ingrid Lombardino, director of emergency services at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews, says emergency veterinarians see an uptick in patients over the holidays with problems that many times could have been prevented with a little forethought.

What’s the No. 1 holiday hazard for dogs? Fighting – it seems it’s not just relatives who can’t get along.

“We see a lot of dogs fighting. When families come together they bring their dogs and many times the animals aren’t properly introduced or food is dropped on the floor and they fight over it,” said Lombardino.

“It’s matter of vigilance and properly introducing them. Take the dogs on a walk together outside before going into the house. This allows them to check each other out on neutral territory.”

But once everyone is inside, don’t let your guard down. Lombardino recommends keeping a close watch on the canines and not assuming that they will be fast friends.

The other major problem the emergency vets see is toxic ingestion – and it’s not the poinsettia leaves that are causing the most trouble, even though that plant can make a dog sick. Chocolate is a major hazard for dogs, and can cause seizures or even heart failure.

Another major cause of poisoning is sugar free mints or gum that contains xylitol, a substance toxic to dogs. Lombardino still remembers the dog that ingested a big pack of Ice Breakers he found under the tree and had to be hospitalized for a few days to recover.

“Grandma felt terrible,” said Lombarino.

Prescription drugs and other substances are dangers as well.

“Over Thanksgiving weekend, I treated at least two dogs who got into the college students’ marijuana stash. The parents didn’t know what was wrong with the dogs at first, but the kids finally confessed after a number of tests,” said Lombardino.

Holiday visitors

Dr. Shannon Bass, medical director of Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, says pet owners need to be especially vigilant with holiday visitors around.

“Guests put their purses on the floor next to the couch or their suitcase on the floor in their room and the dogs will get into snacks, medication , or whatever else they can find. Even grandma’s purse may be a risk,” said Bass.

The abundance of food is also problematic, as guests without pets don’t realize how easily a dog can snatch a plate off the end table.

“I’ve had animals ingest a whole turkey,” said Bass.

“People think that because the turkey just came out of the oven and is hot, they won’t eat it. But they will. And it can make them very sick.”

Cats need care, too

Holidays can be hard on cats, too. Lombardino says holiday visitors and a change in routine can stress cats out causing urinary and gastrointestinal issues. She advises creating a quiet area in the house where the cat can retreat from the festivities.

If your cat is an indoor cat, Bass suggests putting a sign on the door that reads “Don’t let the cat out.” This will prevent a well-meaning relative from turning your indoor cat outside in the cold.

Adoptions, pets as presents

Finally, before you give a dog or cat as a Christmas present, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care and Control’s Melissa Knicely recommends you make sure the recipient wants a new animal companion and that they are prepared to take care of it.

“The holidays can be a good time to adopt a pet as many people have a few days off and more time to acclimate the animal to their home. But don’t just get your best friend a cat – especially if they have never expressed interest before. We encourage it to be a family decision, and one that’s well thought out,” said Knicely.

She says the shelter sees an uptick in people looking to adopt between Thanksgiving and Christmas, particularly this year as they hope to take advantage of the “Home is Where the Heart Is” campaign that waives normal adoption fees and only requests donations to support the spay and neuter clinic.

Bass agrees that it’s OK to add a new pet to your home over the holidays, but cautions those purchasing a dog or cat for Christmas to not force the deadline. Make sure the animal is old enough to be separated from its mom. If not, take a pic of the puppy for the kids to open on Christmas morning, or take them for a visit, but wait till the animal is ready before taking it home.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer:

Interested in adopting?

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care and Control is located at 8315 Byrum Drive, 28217. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. For information call 311.

For information on pet safety, or to see animals available for adoption, visit

Other options:

▪ Carolina PAWS, visit or email

▪ Cabarrus Humane Socity, email View pets and more at

▪ Lake Norman Humane Society Adoption Center, 110 Robinson Road (At N.C. 150 and Robinson Road near Big Daddy’s restaurant), Mooresville. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. 704-663-3330. Visit to see animals available or to complete an adoption application.

▪ Cornelius Animal Shelter. This shelter also needs active kennel attendants and administrative volunteers. If you are older than 18 and are interested, contact Cornelius Animal Control at 704-237-3602 or visit the shelter at 19110 Meridian St., Cornelius.

When should you call the vet?

Dr. Ingrid Lombardino says if your pet has trouble breathing, or is bleeding or in obvious distress, bring them in immediately. If you aren’t sure, she encourages the pet owner to give the emergency vet a call for advice. Carolina Veterinary Specialists are open 24/7 and have offices in Matthews, 704-815-3939; Huntersville, 704-949-1100, and Charlotte, 704-504-9608.