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Avoid these holiday pet owner pitfalls

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In a Pet Poison Hotline blog published Dec. 18, 2013, staff veterinarian Dr. Catherine Angle, DVM reminds readers to take care with packages containing food. She cautions, "Ingesting gourmet cheese, sausage and chocolates can cost hundreds of dollars of therapy at an ER clinic to address."

As nice as gift wrapped boxes of delightful treats may be for humans, in the wrong paws they can quickly become your one-way ticket to the emergency vet on Christmas Eve.When sending packages, make sure the label states that it contains food and should be kept out of reach of pets. When receiving packages, place the box out of reach to avoid your pet opening your package before you. According to Dr. Angle's blog, "Since dogs can be trained to smell cancer, your truffles don’t stand a chance! Place the box on the table until gift opening time or you may be spending your Christmas money at the Animal Emergency Room."

If you notice behavior that's unusual for your pet, or think your pet may have found that box of truffles, call the National Animal Poison Control Center at: 1-888-426-4435 (though a $65 consultation fee may be charged to your credit card).

Not sure what's on the newly-updated list of toxic foods for pets? Read on.

  1. Xylitol: The artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and candy can cause liver failure just 15 minutes after a dog ingests it.
  2. Fatty foods: Suddenly eating a very fatty meal can trigger pancreatitis.
  3. Grapes and raisins: A toxin yet to be identified lurks in this tasty fruit, especially in larger quantities, can cause kidney failure.
  4. Macadamia nuts can cause painful paralysis in dogs.
  5. Chocolate: Baking and bitter chocolates have the most theobromine, making them the most toxic.
  6. Onions and garlic: Thiosulphate in onions is toxic to cats and dogs even in small quantities. Onion toxicity causes hemolytic anemia, which can cause the red blood cells to burst.
  7. Compost and mulch: Tremorgenic mycotoxins produced by decaying organic matter in compost is toxic to both pets and wildlife. Chemicals used to process mulch (and the mulch itself if cocoa bean hulls are used) are also toxic.
  8. Human medications: Even the mildest medications can be highly toxic to pets.
  9. Cleaning agents: Even the "green" versions of cleaners are toxic; secure them from pets.
  10. Unbaked bread dough: When the ingested dough expands in your pet's stomach, it causes painful distention, gastric twisting and bowel obstruction.
  11. Alcohol: If ingested, alcohol can cause neurological depression, hypothermia (low body temperature), hypotension (low blood pressure), seizures and respiratory failure.

For other holiday hazards and pet safety tips, check out the following articles by this author:

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