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The holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about a potentially poisoned pet. Below is a list of holiday-related decorations, plants and food items that the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping away from pets.
When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If your pet chews on them the liquid inside could be could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract.
If you own a cat, forgo the tinsel. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.
Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly or mistletoe. “Lilies, including tiger, Asiatic, stargazer, Easter and day lilies, are the most dangerous plants for cats,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant director of Pet Poison Helpline. “The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats.” Other yuletide pants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrhythmias if ingested.
Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Additionally, foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.
With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise (and in some cases is quite dangerous) to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems:
Imported Snow Globes
Recently, imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol.) As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure. Immediate treatment with an antidote is vital.
Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your cat; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry—so scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of kitty’s reach.
When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 with any questions or concerns.
Even though they have their own water bowl, there is something enticing about a novel source of water; whether it's the toilet bowl or the Christmas tree stand. If you add chemicals to the water meant to keep your tree fresh longer, be sure to read the label to make sure it is safe for pets.
It may be difficult to curb your pet's fascination with all those pretty decorations. Child gates can be used across doorways to keep your pet away from the Christmas tree and decorations at times they cannot be watched.
Well-intentioned family and friends may share holiday foods with pets causing the pet to develop a stomach upset or worse, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) which can be caused by eating fatty foods. To control excessive food intake by your pets and meet your guests' desires to feed the pets, dole out the treats your pets would normally receive and let your guests "treat" the pets. If you want to get festive, mix some of your pet's regular food with water to make a "dough" and roll out and cut into festive shapes, then bake until crunchy.
Extra attention from visiting relatives and friends may be relished by some pets while others seek solitude in their favorite hiding spot. Make sure pets are given some "personal space" if they want to get away from the commotion.
Some pets may respond to all the hullabaloo with a change in behavior including bad behaviors like eliminating in the house. Try to spend a little extra "quality time" with your pet to assure them they have not been forgotten.
What would the holidays be without boxes of chocolate and warm cocoa in front of the fire? However, chocolate can be toxic or even fatal to dogs and cats. Chocolate may be mistakenly given to pets as treats and may be irresistible to the curious canine. Chocolate poisoning occurs most frequently in dogs but other species are also susceptible. Theobromine is the toxic compound found in chocolate. Signs which may appear within 1 to 4 hours of eating chocolate include:
The toxicity of chocolate depends on the amount and type of chocolate ingested:
The amount of Theobromine in white chocolate or chocolate flavored dog treats is usually negligible. As with any poisoning, call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately if you suspect your pet may have ingested chocolate. Have the product label information available when you call your veterinarian. There are national and regional poison control hotlines for animals. In general, the treatment of poisonings is most effective if begun soon after eating the poison, before large amounts are absorbed into the blood.
Pets as Gifts
A cute, cuddly puppy or kitten may seem to be the perfect gift but unfortunately after the holiday season the population of animal shelters explodes with these "surprise gifts". Owning a pet is a long-term commitment that not everyone can make.
Dealing With Death or Severe Illness over the Holidays
The holiday season heightens our emotions and can be a very difficult time to deal with the loss or illness of a companion animal. The bond between animals and humans is often very strong and losses can be very painful. If you or someone you know needs support without judgment from those who appreciate your feelings and may be able to help.