Pet Health Topic for December 2004:
Holiday Pet Poison Prevention Tips
from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

The holidays are a time to eat, drink, decorate, and share good times with friends and family. However, the same treats and trimmings considered harmless for humans can be hazardous to your pet’s health. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers pet owners these helpful hints to keep their pets happy and healthy during the holiday season.

Holiday sweets with chocolate are not for pets. Depending on the dose ingested, chocolate (bakers, semi-sweet, milk, and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be. In fact, unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine as milk chocolate. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity, and increased thirst, urination, and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as 1/4 ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog. 

  • Keep your pet on its normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and particular nutritional requirements.
  • Don’t give pets holiday leftovers and keep pets out of the garbage. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages. Greasy, spicy, and fatty foods can cause stomach upset; spoiled or moldy foods could cause food poisoning signs, tremors, or seizures.
  • Alcohol and pets do NOT mix. Place unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot reach them. If ingested, the animal could become very sick and weak and may go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
  • Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from pets. They can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage.
  • Be careful with holiday floral arrangements. Lilies are commonly used and all varieties, including Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Stargazer, and Casa Blanca, can cause kidney failure in cats. Safe alternatives can include artificial flowers made from silk or plastic.
  • Common Yuletide plants such as mistletoe and holly berries can be potentially toxic to pets. Should a cat or dog eat mistletoe, they could possibly suffer gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy if ingested.
  • Poinsettias are considered to be very low in toxicity. However, they could cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested by your pet. 
  • Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers which, if ingested, can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria and if ingested a pet could end up with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  •  If ingested, decorations such as ribbons or tinsel can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction. This is a very common problem, particularly with cats.
  • Consider decorating your tree with ornaments that are relatively less enticing to pets, such as dried non-toxic flowers, wood, fabric, or pinecones.

 

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