The holidays are upon us. What should be a time of peace and joy sometimes becomes a season of headaches with a hectic social calendar and endless errands. It’s all too easy to lose sight of what’s important… including the health and well-being of our beloved pets. This holiday season, please take a breath — and take some time to become aware of the many ways to protect your pet from a trip to the emergency room.
Let’s keep the holidays festive with these simple tips for avoiding life-threatening accidents. Here are the top 5 most dangerous pet hazards:
1. FOOD HAZARDS
Holiday tables are choc-full of treats and yummy goodies. Before you start digging in, remember to be careful not to let your pet get a bite of such popular holiday treats as chocolate, nuts and bones. These foods care be toxic and even fatal to dogs and cats. Chocolate contains methylxanthines — theobromine and caffeine — plus sugars and fat. Once ingested, a pet may show clinical signs in 6 – 12 hours, including vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, tremors, seizures, collapse and coma. Death may be due to cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory failure, or a hyperthermia-induced coagulation disorder called DIC. Semi-sweet chocolate has higher levels of methylxanthines than dark, milk or white chocolate; baking powder has the most. Just 3 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips will send a 30-pound dog to the emergency room with cardiovascular abnormalities. In smaller quantities, the high sugar and fat in chocolate may cause gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and diarrhea) and possibly pancreatitis (painful inflammation of the pancreas which can also become lethal). If there are nuts in the fudge, there may be more cause for concern. Some nuts are toxic to pets. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts are toxic to dogs — potentially causing hindlimb weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and/or hyperthermia about 12 hours after ingestion. Any nuts, such as almonds and pistachios, can cause gastrointestinal upset or GI obstruction in pets. Finally, bones and fat trimmings are very dangerous for dogs (and cats). Dogs can choke on bones. Bones can cause an obstruction anywhere in the digestive tract, or even splinter and possibly lacerate the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Fat trimmings from any meat are far too rich for pets and may cause pancreatitis. Please refrain from feeding your pets any of these foods; and, be sure to keep these treats out of their reach. Also ask guests to do the same.
For more on toxic foods, visit the ASPCA’s website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/people-foods.aspx
2. TOXIC HOLIDAY PLANTS
Those ornamental holiday plants may get us in the festive mood, but some are poisonous — and may even be deadly. Just a single bite of a leaf from any variety of LILY, or even exposure to pollen only, is lethal to cats, causing acute renal (kidney) failure. Lily flowers contain the highest amount of toxin. Other plants to avoid :
Mistletoe can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, bradycardia (low heart rate), shock and death when ingested. One to two berries can be fatal.
Holly can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea and depression.
Christmas tree pine needles are not necessarily poisonous, but they can be irritating to the mouth and stomach (also foot pads) and may produce vomiting.
Poinsettias may be irritating to the mouth and stomach if ingested, sometimes causing vomiting, but are generally over-rated in toxicity.
Also, please pr event pets from drinking the Christmas tree water as some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Do NOT add aspirin to the water to keep the tree fresh, that water could be dangerous to your pet.
For more on toxic plants, visit the ASPCA’s website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/
3. HOLIDAY TINSEL AND ORNAMENTS
Shiny tinsel (“icicles”) and yards of garland are very attractive to the cat population as they reflect light and come “alive” with the slightest draft. Unfortunately, if eaten, these line ar objects can become lodged in the intestines and literally slice them open as the body tries to propel them through. Please don’t try to remove any string-like ornament from your cat’s mouth; see emergency care immediately.
In addition, bright and colorful tree ornaments can attract your pet’s curiosity. Place fragile ornaments and those with sharp edges higher up on the tree. Pets can chew and swallow these objects and possibly choke or lacerate part of their GI tract.
4. GIFT WRAP RIBBON
Just like tinsel, your pet may be enticed to chew or swallow colorful holiday ribbon. And, you may be tempted to tie you beloved pet up like a present! Beware, a decorative ribbon “collar” could quickly turn into a choking hazard. Please quickly recycle ribbons and bows from holiday gifts so that they don’t become hazardous.
5. HOLIDAY LIGHTS AND CANDLES
Twinkling Christmas lights pose another potential danger to your curious pets. Pets may easily become electrocuted after taking a bite out of an electrical cord, causing severe o r al burns, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lung s); this could be life-threatening. Please keep an eye on the four-legged family members when the lights are shining bright — and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution. And, if you have candles on display, place them out of reach.
Taking precautions with pets during the holiday season will help ensure a joyous and peaceful season for all!
If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian and/or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour emergency hotline at 800-213-6680. For more helpful information, check out the Animal Poison Control Center’s website: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/.