The winter holidays are so ingrained into our culture that their mere existence has led to a variety of health hazards for pets. I love getting together with friends or family for festive gatherings, but in planning for all things celebratory, the utmost in pet safety precautions must always be prioritized. A mere few oversights on our part could lead to severe health consequences for the companion canines or felines that share our environment.
While plants, lights, candles, garland/tinsel, and other decorations brighten our holidays, they pose serious dangers for both animal family members. Certain foods can cause pets to be sick too. Here are the top plants, decorations, and foods to watch out for as you’re pet proofing for the holidays.
Learn more by reading the full article on PetSafe.net (FOLLOW THIS LINK–>Holiday Pet Safety).
Toxic to cats and dogs. Toxic principle: Lycorine which causes increased salivation, gastrointestinal abnormalities (vomit, diarrhea, decreased appetite, etc), lethargy, and tremors. The bulb is more toxic than the flowers and stalk.
Nontoxic to cats and dogs.
Toxic to cats and dogs. Toxic principle: Saponins (soap-like chemicals called glycosides) can cause gastrointestinal signs and lethargy.
Toxic to cats and dogs. Toxic principle: Unknown. Ingestion of pine needles can cause gastrointestinal changes and lethargy. Tree water may contain bacteria, molds, or fertilizers capable of inducing gastrointestinal illness.
Toxic to cats and dogs. Toxic principle: Oxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin in berries or leaves leads to severe gastrointestinal, cardiovascular (low blood pressure, low heart rate), and neurologic (collapse, unusual behavior) signs.
Nontoxic to cats and dogs. Poinsettia’s latex-like sap can induce salivation and vomiting.
Strings of electric lights tempt many pets, especially cats. Oral burns and life-threatening shock can occur from electrical cord bites. Additionally, pets can get tangled in a string of lights.
Even momentary contact with a lit candle could ignite your pet’s coat and burn the skin. Other flammable materials could ignite and quickly spread flames throughout your home if a pet knocks over a candle. Some pets will try to eat scented candles, which may cause digestive upset.
Shiny metallic or plastic garland and tinsel is notoriously hazardous for pets. If eaten, one end of the strand could anchor higher in the stomach or intestines while the free end continues down the digestive tract. The intestines continue to contract and bunch up around the length of the strand, causing a “sawing effect” to sensitive tissues on the inside of the intestines. Cats are more commonly treated for linear foreign body than dogs.
Animal Proteins and Fats
Although animal proteins and fats don’t have a direct toxic effect for our pets, they are rich in calories, fat, and protein. Feeding what looks like a small amounts of muscle meats, skin, and dairy products (cheese, cream, etc.) for a person could easily exceed your pet’s daily caloric needs. Additionally, if your cat or dog’s digestive tract is acclimated to eating dry (kibble) or canned pet foods, consuming human foods can lead to gastrointestinal upset or even pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Bones are natural and quite tasty for our pets, but can cause digestive problems or damage teeth. Cooked bones crack or shear when chewed, so ingestion of fragments will irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines. Large or multiple bone pieces can cause foreign body obstruction of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
Raisins and grapes have an unknown toxic mechanism which causes damage to the canine kidney. The quantity capable of causing toxicity is also uncertain, yet a larger volume of raisins is speculated to correlate with a higher likelihood for kidney damage. It’s best to keep raisins and grapes out of reach of your pets. Additionally, store-bought dried fruits may contain preservatives (sulfur dioxide, etc) or other illness causing contaminants (bacterial or mold based toxins).
Nuts have many beneficial nutritional properties, yet they are dense in calories and fat. Oil-cooked nuts have even more fat than their natural form. Like animal proteins and fats, consumption of nuts by our pets can cause digestive tract upset. Added salt, flavorings, and preservatives also contribute to this potential for vomit, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts have a unique toxic effect on dogs leading to difficulty walking, especially in the hind limbs.
Chocolate and Sweets
Chocolate contains chemical stimulants called methylzanthines (caffeine and theobromine) which are slowly metabolized by the canine and feline liver. Consuming even small amounts of chocolate consumption can be dangerous for cats and dogs. Clinical signs include elevated heart rate/blood pressure, hyperexcitability, and seizures. Dark and baking chocolate have more cocoa per volume and are more toxic in smaller amounts than milk chocolate. White chocolate lacks stimulants, but can cause gastrointestinal abnormalities due its high sugar and/or fat content.
Conclusion- prioritize pet safety in all aspects of your holiday planning
Top Safety Tips:
- Keep your pets out of rooms containing decorations or only permit entry in the presence of a responsible adult.
- Train your pets to avoid decorations by using positive reinforcement. Interest in plants, lights, etc. can be diverted using pet-appropriate food treats or an exciting toy.
- Use flameless candles to ensure an environment safer for both pets and people.
- Get a cord cover or bind together strands of electric cords and apply sprays of a deterrent (Bittle Apple, vinegar, etc.).
- Elevate all foods (including bowls of nuts and slabs of Grandma’s fruit cake) out of your pet’s reach (at least to counter height).
- If holiday plants enter your home, check them out on the APSCA Animal Poison Control.
Thank you for reading this article. Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).
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Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.