Winter can be as much fun for your pet as it is for you. Pet owners need to take some precautions to keep their animal companions safe during this season.
Alcohols can be found in many forms in addition to the obvious beverage sources. Other sources of toxicity can include raw dough containing baker’s or brewer’s yeast and antifreeze. Cats and dogs seem to be attracted to the smell and taste of alcohol. Again, cats are more sensitive to toxicity, but dogs are more likely to ingest the compound. Alcohol is metabolized in the body to compounds that can change the animal’s acid/base balance, resulting in symptoms ranging from depression, vomiting and dehydration to kidney failure, coma, and death. The prognosis for recovery is highly dependent on the rapidity of treatment, so if you suspect alcohol toxicity in your pet, it should be brought to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Onion, Garlic and Chives
A popular ingredient in recipes, all members of this plant family (Allium) are potentially toxic to pets. Both fresh plants and dried powders can be dangerous. Cats are much more susceptible than dogs, where even a small amount of onion powder in baby food can make a cat ill. The toxic compound causes destruction of red blood cells, resulting in the most common symptoms of weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and pale or blue mucous membranes.
Grapes and Raisins
Although grapes and raisins are not commonly encountered during the holidays, the severity of their potential toxicity warrants mention. They are a controversial topic, but all forms of grapes and raisins have been shown to cause acute kidney failure in some dogs, cats, and ferrets. For this reason, the ingestion of grapes and raisins by pets should be avoided.
For those holiday headaches, we often reach for those pain killers. However, what is safe for humans is not necessarily safe for animals. Acetaminophen is especially toxic to cats, as they do possess the capability to eliminate the compound effectively. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, no interest in food, and depression. Swelling of the face also occurs in cats. Severe cases can result in liver failure, and medical treatment should be sought in cases of ingestion of any amount acetaminophen.
In addition, other pain killers (such as ibuprofen) can also be dangerous to pets. These should not be given to your animal under any circumstance, and consultation with your veterinarian is advised if any is ingested.
Poinsettia and Mistletoe
A common decorative piece during the holidays, poinsettia leaves, stems, and sap are poisonous to animals. The most common symptoms observed are vomiting and diarrhea (with or without blood), drooling, pawing at mouth, and swelling of the lips and tongue. Mistletoe berries are the most toxic, but the entire plant can be dangerous as well. Signs can be similar to poinsettia toxicity, but can also include heart and brain abnormalities, collapse, and death. Poinsettia and mistletoe plants, if a necessary addition to the household, should be kept well out of your pets’ reach.
Other common toxic household plants include aloe, amaryllis, lily, and daffodil.
Ribbon and Tinsel
Everyone knows that cats love playing with string. For some unknown reason, they love to chase it, catch it, and chew it. Unfortunately, “linear foreign objects” of all types – ribbon, yarn, thread, tinsel – can create life-threatening problems for animals if they are eaten. Although cats are more likely to ingest string, dogs are equally as susceptible. The issue arises when the string lodges somewhere in the intestinal tract, such as at the base of the tongue or while exiting the stomach, and the intestines continually try to move the string through. This is often a surgical emergency and prevention is the best way to deal with these situations.
In comes the holiday season and out come the twinkle lights. While the lights are beautiful, often electrical cords are to some animals the equivalent of licorice to children. They are fun to chew on, and are especially attractive to chew-happy puppies and rabbits. Electrical burns are painful and often life-threatening, so wires should be removed, hidden, buried, or out of reach from potential chewers.
Rich food can also take its toll, causing rebellion of the stomach and intestines, and inducing pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease. Any dog can develop pancreatitis if given food it’s not used to. High-fat meals are especially bad. Pancreatitis is easy to avoid – don’t feed extras (or at least not in substantial amounts) and don’t give your dog access to a kitchen filled with food.
The Bottom Line
Enjoy the festivities, but at the same time be conscientious of what is in and around your household. If you know your pet is likely to get him or herself in to trouble, make sure you are one step ahead.
Happy Holidays from the staff at Highway 24 Veterinary Clinic!