Holiday Hazard Tips – Dr. LeeAnn DuMars, ABVP
The holidays are exciting for people and pets alike; new toys, lots of great food, and family! This time of the year also comes with unanticipated problems for us and our pets. Follow the tips below to make sure your pet stays safe this season (sorry we can’t help make sure your turkey as perfect!).
Holiday hazards come in many forms, many of which we don’t think twice about.
Small bones from your holiday ham and turkey can pose harm to your pet. Make it a habit to throw all carcasses into your main trashcan immediately. Bones can lodge in the throat, stomach and digestive tract requiring surgery to remove. Also, the fats and gravies that you may add to your pets’ food can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Year long, electrical cords are hazardous to curious pets, especially puppies and kittens. During the holidays, extra lights and decorations provide even more temptation. Make sure that all electrical cords are in good condition and out of reach. Carefully examine both indoor and outdoor lights, making sure they are properly sealed and away from mouths reach. Check cords for any signs of bite marks, loose or frayed wires, proximity to the tree’s water supply or evidence of short circuits. Use grounded “3-prong” extension cords and strictly follow manufacturer’s guidelines for light usage.
Electrical shock can cause burns, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, loss of consciousness, and death. Call a veterinarian immediately if your pet has been injured by electrical shock. Treatment will be most effective if begun soon after the shock.
Tinsel, Ribbon and other Pretty Things
Those shiny strands of Christmas tree décor drive kitties wild! While watching them play intently with tinsel may make us smile, it could make your kitty very ill. Eating tinsel or other string-like items such as ribbon (often called linear foreign bodies) can cause serious damage to the intestine. The ends of ribbon or tinsel can get stuck while the rest is pulled into the intestine as it contracts; the contractions may cause the ribbon or tinsel to saw through the intestine. If not caught in time, serious complications such as infection of the belly cavity can develop. Pets with linear foreign bodies quickly become ill with signs including vomiting, diarrhea, depression, belly pain and sometimes fever.
Remember, foreign matter stuck in the intestine often does NOT show up on x-rays, but sometimes the foreign matter will trap air in the intestine, which helps your veterinarian make a diagnosis. Surgery is required to remove foreign matter that does not pass out on its own.
Chocolate poisoning occurs most frequently in dogs but other species are also susceptible. Theobromine is the toxic compound found in chocolate. Signs which may appear within 1 to 4 hours of eating chocolate include:
·Difficulty keeping balance
·Muscle spasms, seizures, coma
·Death from abnormal heart rhythm
Be aware, the toxicity of chocolate depends on the amount and type of chocolate ingested:
Source Potential Toxic Dose (44lb dog)
Unsweetened Cocoa 3oz
Baking Chocolate 5oz
Semisweet Chocolate 7oz
Milk Chocolate 20oz
The amount of theobromine in white chocolate or chocolate flavored dog treats is usually negligible. As with any poisoning, call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately if you suspect your pet may have ingested chocolate. Remember to bring all packaging to your vet!
Poinsettias & Mistletoe
Poinsettias have received bad publicity in the past whereas in fact, poinsettias are not very toxic to pets. They do contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth but if signs develop they are usually mild.
Mistletoe can be very toxic to animals and you should seek veterinary consultation immediately if your pet has potentially ingested any part of the plant. Mistletoe can cause vomiting, severe diarrhea, difficult breathing, shock and death within hours of ingestion.
There are many species of Holly (genus Ilex) Berries and leaves can be a problem although signs of poisonings are generally mild, and include vomiting, belly pain, and diarrhea.
Go over house rules with all guests prior to their visit to ensure pets are kept safe. Family and guests coming and going throughout the day makes it easier for pets to sneak their way out of the house. Be sure to keep identification on your pets at all times and keep them contained in a bedroom if you are expecting a lot of foot traffic through your front door.
Pets as Gifts
A cute, cuddly puppy or kitten may seem to be the perfect gift but unfortunately after the holiday season the population of animal shelters explodes with these “surprise gifts”. Owning a pet is a long-term commitment that not every one can make.
If you suspect that your pet has ingested something toxic and you are seeing signs of toxicity, please proceed to your emergency veterinarian right away.
If your pet has ingested something and you don’t know if it is potentially hazardous, and your pet seems “fine”, you can call Pet Poison Control 24/7 for a nominal phone consultation fee. Please make sure to have the container/packaging of the ingested item and know your pet’s approximate weight. They will give you recommendations as to whether it may be better to “wait and see” or if it is an immediate emergency.
ASPCA Poison Control 1-888-426-4435
Hopefully these tips ensures the fun and safety of all your family members, including your pets. Have a wonderful holiday!