Pay attention to possible holiday hazards with pets

Holidays can be a wonderful time spent with loved ones and being grateful for everything we have received over the past year. However, there are some things to be aware of when holidays are in session.

Our pets can become vulnerable to some holiday risks and it is important to be knowledgeable and cautious about those risks so they can be avoided.

The smells of food fill the air and even though it might be tempting to give your pet a treat please remember that there are a lot of pet specific treats that are not harmful to your pet, but human treats can often be harmful for your pet.

“Chocolate is by far the most commonly ingested dangerous food around the holidays,” explained Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor in emergency and critical care at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Chocolate and cocoas contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias, disorder of heart rate beating too fast or too slow.”

Barr says that alcohol toxicity is another frequent issue for pets around the holiday season. Affected animals can experience seizures, dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature as well as respiratory failure.

“One should avoid foods containing grapes and raisins as they have been reported to cause kidney failure in dogs,” noted Barr. “Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, which has a strange affect on dogs causing a massive insulin secretion and a dangerous, sometimes fatal, drop in blood sugar. One should also avoid fatty foods because this can cause severe inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis, which can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, and can occasionally result in death.”

It is also important to be careful when exposing plants to your pet. Some plants can be toxic to your pet, so make sure that all plants are out of their reach.

“Poinsettias have classically been thought of as toxic, but if ingested they only cause mild problems such as vomiting or diarrhea,” explained Barr. “The same is true for holly berries or mistletoe, although they are slightly more dangerous if large quantities are ingested. More concerning plants are any flower in the Lilly family because they can cause severe kidney failure in cats.”

Holidays would not be the same without decorations. So keep your pet in mind when choosing decorations, especially your Christmas tree.

Lastly, please avoid giving pets as presents without consulting the receiver of the gift first. Animal shelters see an increase of donations directly after the holidays from short lived pet owners.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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2010-11-25 digital edition

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