How to Keep the Holidays Happy (and pets safe)

posted on December 02, 2012 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, and we here at Heritage Animal Hospital would like to help you keep it that way.  There are a number of items that can be found this time of year that can be harmful to your pets.  Items ranging from chocolate, alcohol, macadamia nuts, scented candles, tinsel and ribbons, antifreeze, and a number of plants can all pose threats to animals.  If you feel your pet may have gotten into any of these items, or is showing any of the signs listed below, please contact a veterinarian immediately.

Chocolate can be toxic to animals if it is eaten.  Signs of ingestion can include vomiting and diarrhea, increased urination, increased activity, and racing heartbeat.  Cookies and candies are a common source of chocolate, as are drinks such as hot cocoa.

Alcohol is toxic to animals, usually in smaller amounts than people would think.  Signs of intoxication include drowsiness, an ataxic walk (meaning un-coordinated, like a drunk person) and can progress to coma and respiratory rate depression, which can cause death.  The signs of antifreeze ingestion mimic alcohol intoxication, and are rapidly fatal, so if your pet is showing these signs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.  Common in cookies and candies, these nuts can cause signs of weakness, muscle tremors, depression, vomiting, and ataxic walk.

In general, it is best to not give your pet any human foods during the holidays due to potential toxicities or stomach upset from foods their systems are not used to.  Raisins, grapes, garlic, onions, and other common ingredients may also be toxic to your pet.

Scented candles can pose a threat to some of our smaller animals such as birds and sugar gliders.  Strong odors from candles and other objects can cause respiratory distress, which can manifest as things such as increased respiratory rate, coughing, sneezing, and increased respiratory effort and noise.  Also, leaving candles lit where a pet could knock it over or singe whiskers can pose a serious burn risk for your pet or even your house.

Poinsettias, lilies, holly, mistletoe and other plants can be toxic if ingested, especially to cats.  Signs can include things such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and changes in urination.

Ribbons and tinsel may catch your cat’s eye as a good toy, but can be very dangerous if ingested.  String like material tends to get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract and as the intestines try to continue to move it through, they will saw against the foreign material and can cause a leak in the intestinal wall.  The foreign material can also cause a blockage in the intestinal tract.  Signs of foreign body ingestion can include lack of appetite, vomiting, straining to defecate or diarrhea, and lethargy.

Christmas trees can pose additional risks as well.  Water from the Christmas tree can have additives in it that may be harmful to your pet ranging from stomach upset from sugar water to toxicity from fertilizers.  In addition, glass ornaments can cause potential problems if played with either when ingested or by causing wounds to paws and face.  Also, electrical wires can pose dangers to pets if they chew on them.  Lastly, make sure your tree is firmly anchored, especially if you have curious cats that like to climb.

Please limit your pet’s access to these potentially harmful items, and please call a veterinarian if your pet is showing any of the above signs or if you feel your pet may have gotten into something it shouldn’t have.  Together we can help keep your pet safe during the holiday season and into the new year!

Happy Holidays from Heritage Animal Hospital!

Posted in: Toxicity