Keep Them Safe This Holiday Season

'Tis the season to be jolly, and for pets to get into things they shouldn't. Here are few things to watch out for to keep everyone safe. RIBBONS & TINSEL

These are of special interest to playful cats and kittens who see these materials as toys (or prey) to be chased, pounced upon, chewed or swallowed. While chasing and pouncing pose no health threats, chewing and swallowing do, as these strings or “linear foreign bodies” can catch in the GI tract, leading to bunching of intestine as the body tries in vain to move the string or ribbon through. This is a life-threatening condition requiring surgery for correction. Supervise animals who play with string closely.


These are also tempting to cats who like to play with string as well as to puppies who are teething and interested in chewing. If a pet bites through an electrical cord, it could result in a severe burn to the tongue, which causes the pet’s lung to fill with fluid, causing respiratory distress. This is also an emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.


Many people do not realize that chocolate can be a poison. Unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate carries a much higher dose of the toxin “theobromine” than does milk chocolate, but even normal milk chocolate can be dangerous; a small dog sharing candy can wind up in big trouble. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include hyper excitability, nervousness, vomiting, and diarrhea and death.


Pieces of onion, onion powder, or even cooked onion, can cause damage to red blood cells, which could result in anemia in both dogs and cats.


Macadamia nuts may cause problems if ingested by dogs. According to a retrospective study, clinical signs commonly reported in dogs ingesting macadamia nuts include weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and hyperthermia. In most cases, dogs developed clinical signs within the first twelve hours post ingestion. These signs have only been seen in dogs and the exact cause for their sensitivity is unknown.


Holly is considered moderately toxic, with vomiting and diarrhea most often seen in a pet who has ingested a small amount.  When a large amount is ingested, holly can be fatal.  The Christmas rose is moderately toxic, with vomiting and diarrhea most often seen.  Lilies are potentially fatal to cats, as they can cause acute kidney failure.  Any lily -- Stargazer, Asian, Easter, Tiger, and some day lilies can be fatal to cats.  In fact, even the pollen from lilies can be hazardous to cats and kittens.


These contain an as-yet-identified toxin that can cause acute kidney failure in susceptible pets.  Although not all dogs and cats who eat raisins and grapes develop life-threatening kidney failure, amounts as little as 0.22 ounces of raisins per pound of the pet's body weight or 1.4 ounces of grapes per pound of body weight can cause toxicity.  For a 10-pound dog, that would be just over two ounces of raisins or 14 ounces of grapes.


Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute. Use of xylitol has recently expanded in popularity, and xylitol is found in many sugar-free gums, candies, and other foods. Dogs appear sensitive to xylitol, as ingestion of 100mg/kg xylitol can result in rapid, life-threatening hypoglycemia (no known toxicity exists for humans).


Consuming this festive-looking plant can be irritating to the mouth and stomach of the dog or cat that chews on or eats it. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia is not specifically toxic.


The fact that there are several types of mistletoe makes it difficult to predict the clinical signs of poisoning. Some mistletoes produce only stomach upset while others may lead to liver failure or seizing. Consider mistletoe to be a hazardous substance and keep it inaccessible to pets and children.