During the holiday season, we often get so wrapped up with our busy schedules that we forget about the dangers that our pets may encounter. From food to plants to decorations, some of the most common holiday items can turn fun times into tragedy for our furry, four-legged friends. The best thing that you can do to protect your pet is to familiarize yourself with common household toxins and arrange your house accordingly. If you think that your pet may have been poisoned, contact your veterinarian, local emergency veterinary clinic or poison control.
Imported Snow Globes:
Imported snow globes have recently been found to contain Antifreeze. Antifreeze is an extremely toxic chemical that causes kidney failure often resulting in death in just a few short days. Because of its sweet taste, cats and dogs find it to be rather yummy. It doesn’t take but a small amount to be fatal. A cat can ingest just a teaspoon and a medium sized dog just five tablespoons and there can be fatal consequences. Early signs of poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, depression, excessive thirst, vomiting and seizures. Pets may seem to improve about eight to twelve hours after ingestion, but in actuality they are worsening. Immediate medical care is crucial.
Ingestion of tinsel, ribbon or any other string-like material can be serious health hazards to cats. Cats can develop linear foreign bodies. Linear foreign bodies occur when one end of a string-like material gets stuck somewhere, whether it be in the mouth or stomach and the rest starts to move into the intestines. This causes damages to the intestines and if not caught in a timely manner can result in a septic abdomen (infection in the abdominal cavity that can prove deadly). Symptoms can range from vomiting and diarrhea to depression and abdominal pain. Surgical intervention is required when the foreign matter will not pass on its own.
Holiday lights, both indoor and outdoor, can pose threats to pets. Not only can they be a choking hazard or pose a risk for obstructions, the greatest concern is that of electrical shock. This can occur when a pet chews on a cord or because of a faulty electrical cord. Electrical shock can cause abnormalities with the heart, burns, trouble breathing and even death.
Bubble lights: These types of lights contain a liquid chemical called methylene chloride. If your pet chews on these lights and ingests the liquid it can cause depression and irritation to the eyes, skin and GI tract.
Many types of liquid potpourris contain chemicals called cationic detergents. When ingested by cats, the result can be severe chemical burns to the mouth, difficulty breathing, fever and tremors.
During the holidays it is not uncommon for family members or friends to share their food with your pets. Unfortunately, many of our favorite foods can actually be very harmful. In order to prevent any unwanted sharing, hand out some treats to your guests that your pet normally receive and let them share that way.
Chocolate contains a toxic compound called Theobromine that within hours can cause vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, weakness, hyperexcitability, muscle spasms, unsteadiness, seizures, coma, heart arrhythmias and even death. Unsweetened cocoa and baking chocolate contain the most theobromine, while the amount in white chocolate is usually negligible. If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate call your local veterinarian, emergency veterinary hospital or poison control immediately. It is helpful to have the product information and amount ingested readily available.
TIP: Don’t leave wrapped presents containing chocolate under the tree. Dogs have a great sense of smell!
Alcoholic drinks or foods soaked in alcohol such as fruitcakes can affect pets quickly because of their rapid absorption into the bloodstream. Intoxicated animals can experience dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. They can also experience seizures and respiratory failure.
The toxic mechanism in macadamia nuts is unknown. What we do know is that it seems to effect nerve function and can cause joint stiffness, tremors and the inability to walk. In addition to that you can see severe lethargy, hyperthermia and vomiting. Signs usually occur with 12 hours of ingestion.
Ingestion of even a small amount of any of these three can result in acute kidney failure. Toxicity doesn’t seem to be dose dependent.
When dogs ingest raw dough it expands in the moist and warm environment of the stomach and can result in bloat. This can progress to GDV where the stomach twists on itself. Yeast dough can also ferment in the stomach producing carbon dioxide and alcohol resulting in alcohol poisoning.
Onion and garlic toxicosis can results in gastroenteritis as well as damage to red blood cells causing Heinz body anemia. Garlic is considered to be about five times as strong as onions and Japanese breeds and cats seem to be more sensitive.
Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener most commonly found in chewing gums such as Trident, Orbit, and Ice Breaker. It can also be found in mints, pudding and gelatin snakes, toothpaste, and over the counter supplements. Depending on the amount ingested the result can be an acute, life-threatening drop in blood sugar, acute liver necrosis or liver failure.
Unlike people, pets only possess a small amount of of the digestive enzyme lactase, which makes it hard for them to break down the lactose found in milk. Because of this, milk and other milk-based products can cause diarrhea and other GI symptoms.
Fatty foods, especially fatty meat can result in pancreatitis which can have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, reduced appetite and abdominal pain.
Despite the usual concern that people have associated with poinsettias, these plants only pose a mild toxicity to cats and dogs. When the white sap found inside poinsettias is ingested, mild gastrointestinal signs including vomiting, drooling and sometimes diarrhea can be seen. Symptoms are usually self-limiting and rarely require medical care.
Both the American and European varieties of mistletoe are poisonous to pets with the American variety being less toxic. When the berries from this plant are ingested in small amounts the result can be gastrointestinal irritation. When large amounts are ingested, there have been reports of low blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, trouble walking, collapse, seizure and even death.
Thanks to the spiny leaves of Holly and Christmas cactus, pets tend to smack their lips, drool and shake their heads excessively after ingestion. Ingestion can also cause irritation and damage to the lining to the stomach and intestines resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
One of the biggest threats you will encounter this holiday season is Lilies. Lilies (including Tiger, Asiatic, Stargazer, Day and Easter) commonly found in floral arrangements can cause acute kidney failure in cats. Dogs do not seem to be affected like cats and mild stomach upset is usually the only symptom.
A FEW TIPS TO KEEP YOUR PETS SAFE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
∙Keep guests handbags up and out of reach of pets. Worrisome items found in purses include prescription medications, NSAIDS such as ibuprofen, sugar-free gum, asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins and hand sanitizer.
∙When family or friends are visiting with their pets, keep a close eye on the interaction between animals as dog fights are a common occurrence between unfamiliar animals.
∙Don’t let your pets over-indulge this holiday season. Feed them their normal food and allow guests to feed them their normal treats, as to avoid them feeding table scraps.
∙Have emergency phone numbers readily available!