Holidays Hazards for Pets
Posted November 18, 2010
Holidays can be a
wonderful time spent with loved ones and being grateful for
everything we have received over the past year. However, there are
some things to be aware of when holidays are in session. Our pets
can become vulnerable to some holiday risks and it is important to
be knowledgeable and cautious about those risks so they can be
The smells of food
fills the air and even though it might be tempting to give your pet
a treat please remember that there are a lot of pet specific treats
that are not harmful to your pet, but human treats can often be
harmful for your pet.
"Chocolate is by
far the most commonly ingested dangerous food around the holidays,"
explains Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor in emergency
and critical care at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). "Chocolate and cocoas
contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs. Ingestion in
small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but large amounts
can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias, disorder of heart rate
beating too fast or too slow."
Barr says that
alcohol toxicity is another frequent issue for pets around the
holiday season. Affected animals can experience seizures, dangerous
drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature as well
as respiratory failure.
"One should avoid
foods containing grapes and raisins as they have been reported to
cause kidney failure in dogs," notes Barr. "Many sugarless gums and
candies contain xylitol, which has a strange affect on dogs causing
a massive insulin secretion and a dangerous, sometimes fatal, drop
in blood sugar. One should also avoid fatty foods because this can
cause severe inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis,
which can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, and can occasionally
result in death."
It is also
important to be careful when exposing plants to your pet. Some
plants can be toxic to your pet, so make sure that all plants are
out of their reach.
classically been thought of as toxic, but if ingested they only
cause mild problems such as vomiting or diarrhea," explains Barr.
"The same is true for holly berries or mistletoe, although they are
slightly more dangerous if large quantities are ingested. More
concerning plants are any flower in the Lilly family because they
can cause severe kidney failure in cats."
Holidays would not
be the same without decorations. So keep your pet in mind when
choosing decorations, especially your Christmas tree.
"Both real and
artificial trees pose hazards for pets," says Barr. "The
preservative for the water in the Christmas tree can contain
ingredients such as bleach and vinegar which are caustic and can
cause some gastrointestinal irritations. It is very important to
keep pets away from drinking tree water."
It may be best to a
keep a Christmas tree in a stand where the water can be covered so
pets don't have the option to drink the water. Also, it is
important to secure the tree with a fishing line string to a hook
on the ceiling or wall to avoid it from falling over. Tree lights
should not be plugged in when they are not being used so that your
pet does not get tangled up in them. Pick up all tinsel, ribbon,
ornaments, and hooks off of the floor so a pet does not mistake
them for chew toys. Decorate the bottom of the Christmas tree with
wood or plastic ornaments that won't break in case a pet likes to
get close to the tree. Keep all of the gifts that contain human
food off the floor so pets are not tempted by the smells. Burn
candles in places that are inaccessible to your pets. Barr points
out that liquid potpourri can cause chemical burns to the mouth and
esophagus which can be very painful and dangerous for any pet if
avoid giving pets as presents without consulting the receiver of
the gift first. Animal shelters see an increase of donations
directly after the holidays from short lived pet owners.
"While pets as
presents may make for a popular parent, it is a well-known fact
that shelter populations increase after the holidays as there are a
lot of those pets that are surrendered because a family is
unprepared for them," explains Barr. "If you are considering a pet
as a gift, use the opportunity to visit a shelter and adopt a
deserving pet from there. It can be a wonderful opportunity where
the giver and the receiver will gain a lot more from the
If you believe that
your pet has ingested a toxic substance, please call: Pet Poison
Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Center at 1-888-426-4435. As always, the Texas A&M University
Small and Large Animal Hospitals are always open for animal
emergencies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk.
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