Holiday Hazards for Pets
Keep pets away from these common items to ensure a happy, healthy time for all members of the family this holiday season!
Many traditional holiday foods present hazards for pets. Grapes, raisins, and currants, whether found on an appetizer plate or baked in a fruitcake, these fruits can result in kidney failure. Chocolate and cocoa (especially dark chocolates) contain theobromine, a chemical that is highly toxic to dogs and cats. In small amounts ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity, but in larger amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias. Xylitol, a sweetener that can be found in sugarless gum and many other “sugar-free” foods is toxic to dogs, and can cause low blood sugar and liver failure if ingested. Leftover fatty meat scraps (whether fed off the table or found in the trash can) can cause severe inflammation of the pancreas – it is best to make sure your pet remains on their regular diet during the holiday season.
Christmas trees, holiday ornaments, and tinsel
To a cat, tinsel looks like a shiny new toy, but it can be deadly if ingested. While tinsel itself is not toxic, it can result in a linear foreign body if ingested, which can result in severe injury to and even rupture of the intestines. Many ornaments have sharp edges or can break easily, and can cause lacerations in mouth when chewed upon, and lacerations in the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract when swallowed. Toys or ornaments can also cause obstruction in the intestines if swallowed. Make sure your tree is properly secured, and fragile glass ornaments should be kept off low-lying branches. Keep pets away from stagnant water in the reservoir, as it can cause vomiting and diarrhea when consumed.
When pets ingest alcohol, it can cause vomiting, disorientation, lack of coordination, and even seizures. These negative effects can occur whether the alcohol is consumed in liquid form or after a dessert with alcohol in it. Additionally, unbaked dough that contains yeast should be kept away from pets, as it can result in alcohol toxicity once in the stomach.
Several plants commonly used for holiday decorating can be poisonous or toxic to pets. Poinsettias, often believed to be extremely dangerous for pets, are in fact only mildly toxic. Mild vomiting and drooling may be seen but most cases resolve on their own, with medical treatment being required only in rare circumstances. On the other hand, plants such as mistletoe, holly, and certain types of lilies are much more harmful to pets. Mistletoe in small amounts may cause mild gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling, but in larger amounts can cause low blood pressure, seizures, and even death. Holly can be dangerous to cats and dogs both because of trauma from the spiny leaves, and because of the substances it contains. If ingested, pets smack their lips, drool, and shake their heads. Not all types of lilies are toxic, but the ones that are can cause severe illness in cats, even if only a small amount is ingested. Examples of dangerous lilies include tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western, and wood lilies. These toxic species of lilies cause acute kidney failure in cats and can be deadly without immediate medical care.
Liquid potpourris, if ingested, can cause chemical burns in the mouth, as wells as fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Cats tend to be more sensitive (and often more curious) than dogs.
When planning your holiday decorations and lighting, take care where you place electrical cords, as curious pets (especially youngsters) may be inclined to chew. Chewing on electrical cords can lead to electric shocks, causing burns, fluid accumulation in the lungs, and even death. To protect pets, turn off lights and unplug them when you aren’t home.
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