The Holidays Are Here. . . remember to keep your pets healthy!
With the holidays so fast upon us, here is a quick reminder of the potential hazards to your cats and dogs. With all the cooking that needs to be done during the holidays, there are lots of tasty treats for your pets to get into, with results ranging vomiting and diarrhea to seizures in severe cases. Chocolate tocicity is one of the more common poisonings that occurs during the holidays. A compound known as theobromine is present in all chocolate, but in especially high in baking chocolate; ingestion of milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate are usually only associated with GI upset, but care should be exercised nonetheless. If an animal ingests enough chocolate, symptoms can range from muscle tremors, excitability, irritability, restlessness, and diarrhea in low doses to seizures and cardiac depression in more severe exposures. While the toxic dose is fairly high, it is best to keep all pets, especially cats and small dogs away from any chocolate, especially so when baking.
Another common danger is found in Turkey dinners with all the fixings. While there are no toxins associated with the dinner, the high amount of fat in the gravy can easily set off a case of pancreatitis, which typically presents as profuse vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Stuffing, cheese sauces, fruit salads, etc., can all set off a dog’s stomach, so it is best to keep Fido away from the turkey dinner. Cats are susceptible to pancreatitis as well, with symptoms being more subtle including weight loss and inappetance; so make sure Fluffy doesn’t run off with a large piece of turkey skin. Turkey bones tend to splinter, and can get lodged in the throat, esophagus or GI tract. These should be kept away from all pets, and disposed of in a sealed container after dinner is over.
Colorful decorations are always fun during the holidays, but tinsel is often a favorite for cats to get into trouble with. Tinsel can turn into what is known as a linear foreign body if ingested by cats. This is where the tinsel can work its way through the GI tract and eventually cause an obstruction. If you notice a large strand is missing, keep a close eye on the litter box for normal bowel movements, and if you notice a piece of tinsel sticking out of your kitty’s bottom, DON’T PULL IT, leave it alone and call to have your cat seen. Occasionally, tinsel can bind up the intestines to a point where surgical intervention is required. Ribbon, string, or other string-like material has the potential for obstruction, so use caution when opening presents and dispose of the wrap material in a timely manner.
Holiday plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly can all cause issues with pets if ingested. There are conflicting reports of the toxicity of poisettias, but at the minimum they can cause GI upset if ingested, and irritation to the gums and gingival tissue, so it is best to keep the animals away from them. Mistletoe exposure can be associated with vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea if ingested, and cardiac depression (slow heart rate and low blood pressure) in higher doses. While mistletoe leaves are not extremely toxic, the berries do contain high amounts of toxin, and as few as one or two berries and cause severe symptoms. Holly is also know to cause GI upset in animals, and should be kept away from all pets. For you horse owners out there, keep the mistletoe and holly away from the horses, as exposure in small amounts can cause colic symptoms.
We hope you and your pets have a very happy and healthy holiday season!