Holiday dangers for pets

At this time of year, there is so much activity going on with family and friends that we may forget how holiday decorations, food and festivity may pose a danger to our pet’s health.

Common Holiday Plants that are Toxic to Pets:

Amaryllis from the Belladonna family: The bulbs are THE most toxic. Signs of toxicity are nausea, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure, weakness) and depression.

English Holly: The red berries are toxic. Signs of toxicity are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Mistletoe: Berries, stems and leaves are toxic. Ingestion causes vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal pain.

Poinsettias: The milky white sap is irritating to the mouth and skin causing sores or inflammation of contact areas. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur if a large quantity is ingested.

Christmas Trees: Dogs and cats have been known to drink the water in the base of live trees that has had chemicals added to keep the tree fresh. These chemicals are toxic to our pets and should be avoided at all costs.

Common Holiday Food that is Toxic to Pets:

Of course we know that too many treats from the table can cause upset stomachs but the following are actually toxic and need to be kept away from furry mouths:

Macadamia nuts
Dried cranberries or craisins
Raw bread dough
(I had a patient that ate a bowl of bread dough that was sitting out to rise. The yeast causes fermentation and basically the dog was drunk and bloated from the dough rising in the stomach.)

I also recommend against giving bones. Bones can crack the teeth if they are large and the dog is chewing enthusiastically. Thinner bones, like chicken or turkey bones, can be swallowed and cause bloody diarrhea and pain.

Other Holiday hazards

If you have cats and kittens in the family, the Christmas tree looks like a wonderful plaything to climb. As the tree comes crashing down or the pet becomes entangled in Christmas light wires (and even chews on them!) you have to worry about broken bones or even electrocution if the light wires are plugged in.

Dogs, when excited, may crash right into a Christmas tree, causing it to fall. Dogs will chew on trees, ornaments and wires, as well, and again the danger of electrocution is present, even if the tree is still upright.

Some pets, that are prone to respiratory problems or have certain allergies, may react to smoke from wood burning fireplaces resulting in coughing, asthma attacks, red irritated eyes or runny noses.

Cats and dogs will often chew on fresh Christmas trees and I have had to pull pine needles out of pet’s throats. In some cases, animals that have swallowed pine needles have had the needles perforate or pierce through the intestines causing peritonitis.

Any wrapped present that contains food, or in some cases scented soaps and oils, are at risk of being chewed into and opened by a curious dog or cat.Ribbons and tinsel are especially enticing to cats. They will play with these and can get tangled up or may even swallow the string. When tinsel is swallowed, it will show up on an x-ray. However, plain strings or ribbons do not. The string/ribbon or tinsel can then get caught in the intestine and the pet will need to have surgery to remove it before it cuts through the intestine.

If you are going to be traveling to an area that has snow over the holidays, make sure you check your pets’ feet for signs of frostbite or for ice balls trapped in the fur between the toes. In areas that snow regularly, the road crews will put rock salt down to melt the ice and this can get on the paws and fur of pets and create salt toxicity if it is licked off.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season and that you and your furry, feathered and scaly family members have a wonderful 2015!

Categories: Pet Health Tips from the Helen Woodward Animal Center