Holiday Tips: Caring For Your Pets

Happy Holidays! Many of you are putting finishing touches on your holiday decorations, buying last-minute gifts, baking cookies, volunteering to help those in need, or making travel plans to spend time with family and friends. It’s a busy time of the year!

Amidst the chaos of the season, we wanted to remind you of how the season can affect our pets. We are here to help you protect your pets against tinsel, chocolate, toxic plants and holiday lights; prepare your pets for boarding or travel; or help your pets negotiate the stresses of the season. Follow these tips to help keep your pets healthy, happy and safe this holiday season.

1) Avoid decorating your tree with tinsel. Tinsel can cause severe linear foreign bodies if ingested by our pets. We don’t want your holiday season interrupted by emergency surgery.

2) Some holiday plants can be toxic in pets. Holly, mistletoe, English ivy, and poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal signs. Some plants are more toxic. For example, yew contains taxines which can quickly lead to severe cardiac disturbances, convulsions, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, and potentially death. If you have a pet who likes to explore plants, it’s probably best to choose the non-toxic Christmas cactus as your plant of choice this holiday season. To learn more about toxic plants, visit the ASPCA Poisonous Plants website at https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants.

3) Share your love with your pet during the holiday season, but use caution if you are sharing your food. Chocolate can be very toxic. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is, so if you bake, make sure your baker’s chocolate is out of reach. Xylitol is a natural, sugar-free sweetener common in candies, gums, and certain foods including sauces, syrups and jams. Xylitol can cause life-threatening low blood sugar and liver failure if ingested by dogs.

4) Be cautious with your holiday lights. Live wires, if chewed, can cause burns, respiratory or cardiac issues, or electrocution. Loose extension cords or wires can also cause pets to become entangled and pose strangulation risks.

5) The holiday season may not be so enjoyable for your pets. Guests and parties can cause stress, fear, and anxiety in our pets. If you are entertaining this holiday season, have a plan in place to maintain your pet’s physical and emotional health.

  • Set up a safe quiet space for your pet with familiar bedding, toys, food, and water.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing identification or has a microchip in case he or she gets loose.
  • Make sure your guests are aware of what they can or cannot feed your pets.
  • If your pet is anxious or fearful, talk with your veterinarian about medications to help.

6) If you are planning to board your pet over the holidays, make sure that he or she is up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite preventatives.

7) Open flames from candles or fireplaces are fire hazards and can cause burns. Make sure not to leave pets unattended around open flames. In addition, hot melted wax can cause burns to pets if spilled or knocked over.

8) If you are traveling with your pet, pack their suitcase as well. Don’t forget their food and water bowls; your pet’s normal diet and treats; clean-up bags for dogs or a litter box for cats; special beds or bedding; their favorite toys; updated ID tags, collars, or microchip information in case your pet escapes; flea, tick, and heartworm medication; your pet’s medication, including a sedative, anti-anxiety medication, or medication for motion sickness, if needed; and your pet’s medical records, Rabies certificate, and health certificate (if traveling to a different state).

9) Make sure gifts are kept out of the reach of pets. Gifts under the tree are tempting for our pets. Pets can smell edible gifts through the packaging and wrapping paper and may try to open them to eat the contents. Wrapping material such as ribbons, glitter, foil and paper can cause foreign bodies, injuries, and stomach upset.

10) Be aware that some foods can be harmful to pets. Some are truly toxic while others can cause stomach upset, pancreatitis, or foreign bodies. To avoid a holiday trip to the emergency hospital, keep a tight lid on the trash can and don’t feed your pets these items:

  • Fat trimmings, gravy, or bones
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions and garlic
  • Butter, milk, or eggnog
  • Alcohol
  • Bread dough
  • Macadamia nuts and walnuts
  • Chocolate and candy

11) Before your holiday events begin or before you leave for the day help your pets expend some energy. Take your dog for a walk, go to the dog park, or throw a ball for a while. For your cats, you can play with a string toy or the laser pointer. This will help them to relax and be better able to handle the overstimulation and disruption of their routines during this season.

12) Have the contact information available for the emergency clinics in case your pet encounters an emergency over the holidays.

We will be closed from Tuesday, December 24th at 12:30 pm to Thursday, December 26th at 8:00 am. If your pet has an after-hours emergency, please contact one of the following emergency care centers.

Animal Emergency & Referral Center: St Paul

1542 West 7th St
St. Paul MN 55102
(651) 293-1800

Animal Emergency & Referral Center: Oakdale

1163 Helmo Ave N
Oakdale MN 55128
(651) 501-3766

Como Park Afterhours Veterinary Care

1014 Dale Street N
St. Paul, Minnesota 55117
(651) 487-3255

With these tips in mind, we hope that both you and your pets have a wonderful holiday season. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at (651) 645-2808 or group@stfrancisabh.com.

Employee Spotlight: Samantha Folger, CVT

Each month, we will spotlight one of our team members in order of years of service at St Francis Animal Hospital.

Samantha graduated from the Minnesota School of Business in March of 2014 with a degree in Veterinary Technology and passed her National Veterinary Technician Exam in June 2014 to earn her title of Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT). Samantha worked at a couple small animal clinics and in emergency veterinary medicine before coming to St Francis Animal Hospital in November 2014.

She loves every role that is included as a technician, but has a passion for veterinary nutrition. Samantha has served as our Director of Nutritional Services since November 2017. Above and beyond her role as a technician, she serves on our management team as our Inventory Manager.

In addition to all that she does at St Francis, she is currently in school working on her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN). In her spare time, Samantha enjoys her time outdoors doing projects and hiking with her husband, Mitch, and spending time with their two cats, Larry and Diesel.

Why do you love being a veterinary technician?

Anyone who has pets knows that the best part about coming home at the end of the day is seeing your pet. I love being a veterinary technician because I get to spend my whole day working with pet owners and their furry family members. It is such an honor to help educate pet.

owners on their pets’ needs and strengthen their human animal bond. Pets are so special in so many ways. I love being able to work with them every day to ensure that they are as happy and healthy as they can be.

Why do you love working at St Francis Animal Hospital?

When I first started at St Francis Animal Hospital, I knew this was the clinic I wanted to be a part of. The team of doctors, veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants all go above and beyond for every patient that walks through the door. There are a lot of practices out there that claim to treat pets like family, but at St Francis, we most certainly do. Every team member is caring, knowledgeable, and holds patient care as the number one priority 100% of the time. There is not one employee here that doesn't go home and worry about a sick pet they have been working with like it was their own.

Communication Platforms: Telephone and PetDesk

We are improving our communication platforms at St Francis this month. As you use these new platforms, we very much welcome any feedback that you may have. We want these platforms to work for you!


On December 10th, we went live with our new phone system. When you call St Francis, you now have the options to be transferred to the Animal Emergency & Referral Center; leave a message with a medication refill request; review our clinic hours, address, and contact information; enter a call queue to schedule an appointment or speak with a staff member; or leave a general voicemail. We are still working on a few adjustments, but we are hopeful that this will be a great improvement over our previous telephone system.


We are really excited to partner with PetDesk starting on December 30th. PetDesk will provide another means of communication between St Francis and each of you. We will be utilizing PetDesk for our health service reminders, appointment confirmations, and text messaging. PetDesk will also replace ePet Health for your pet’s portal. You will have access to your pet’s medication list, vaccine history, and laboratory results.

PetDesk's easy-to-use app will make appointment requests and medication refill requests simple and convenient for you.

We look forward to having yet another way to partner with you in your pet’s health care. We invite you click here to visit the PetDesk website. Download the app to your mobile device so you are ready to launch with us on December 30th!

To learn more, click here to visit PetDesk’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Look for the welcome email being sent out during the last week of December. If you do not wish to utilize any of these features, you are welcome to opt out of PetDesk at any time -- but we hope that you will give it a try!

News Briefs

St Francis Hours

Starting January 2nd, we will be closing at 6 pm nightly. Our regular office hours will be Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Saturdays from 8 am to 12:30 pm.

We will be closed on Saturday February 22nd for the MVMA Annual Veterinary Conference.

Farewell Dr. Kevin Roeser

We are very sad to say goodbye to Dr. Kevin Roeser. After 17 years, he was presented with an amazing opportunity to work in a practice close to his home and his barn, allowing more time with his family and his horses. His last day at St Francis will be December 28th. We will miss you!

Cause For Paws

Help us decorate our Christmas tree by donating to Cause For Paws this holiday season. Our fundraiser will continue throughout the end of the year. Cause For Paws is a small, all-volunteer group who finds loving permanent homes for stray and abandoned cats and kittens. Please consider donating today!