Holiday Pet Health Hazards

By January 06 | See Comments

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As the holiday season nears, decorations come out of storage and guests start gathering. But before your planning and festivities go into full gear, take some time to gauge any hidden hazards your guests or home may present to your pets. While you might know that some foods are not good for your dog, your guests won't. Pet-proofing your house may just save you from an emergency visit to the veterinarian.

Dangerous Food Items

With the abundance of food around at holiday time, pets end up helping themselves to trash cans and unattended plates. There are a number of food items that are lethal if consumed by your dog or cat. Here is a list of five foods you should ensure your pet avoids:

  1. Chocolates – Chocolate based products have methylxanthines, which include theobromine and caffeine. Depending on the amount and type of chocolate consumed, your dog or cat may face serious complications. Diarrhea and vomiting are the most commonly observed side-effects of eating chocolate. Other effects include hyperactivity, anxiousness, tremors, stumbling, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms. If it is treated early, the prognosis is good.
  2. Xylitol – The artificial sweetener, xylitol, which is found in sugar-free products, is deadly to dogs. If ingested, it causes the blood sugar to drop, which can result in lethargy, vomiting, collapse, weakness or seizures. The signs start appearing as early as 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion but might be delayed for up to 12 hours. In some cases, liver failure can happen within 72 hours of ingesting it.
  3. Raisins and grapes – Although the mechanism isn't clear, eating raisins or grapes can lead to kidney failure in dogs. Since it is not known how much a dog should consume in order for it to be dangerous, it is safer to keep them out of the pet's reach – and inform your guests about the potential danger. Signs that your dog might have consumed raisins or grapes include vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, and loss of appetite.
  4. Toxic plants – If you own a cat, lilies are the plant you have to worry about, as consuming them can cause kidney failure. If there is an arrangement with lilies, get it out of your home and ensure that you clean up the pollen – every part of the plant is poisonous. Eating poinsettias may cause mouth irritation, whereas mistletoe and holly cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
  5. Fat trimmings – Avoid feeding bones or fatty leftovers to your pet even if it is tempting to do so. Possible consequences include pancreatitis, diarrhea, severe vomiting, broken teeth, blockage of the esophagus or intestines – which would require immediate surgery.

If your pet is exposed to a toxin, call your veterinarian, local clinic or pet poison control center immediately. If you know what your pet has swallowed and need to go to the emergency room, take the box or wrapper with you so that the veterinarian can calculate the ingested dose.

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