There are plenty of dangers lurking in holiday traditions that can harm your pets. First, there are quite a bit of yummy things pets can (and will) try to eat. All those delectable treats we love so much this time of year can be very harmful, even fatal to our furry friends. Chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs and cats who are sensitive to it. Sensitivity to chocolate is like sensitivity to bee stings, if your dog is ‘allergic,’ he could very well die. More often than not, dogs are extremely sensitive to chocolate. When this is the case, it doesn’t take very much at all; an ounce of chocolate can kill a Great Dane of over 100 lbs. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which cannot be metabolized readily by most dogs. Baker’s chocolate has the highest concentration of theobromine, and is therefore more dangerous than semi-sweet, which is in turn more dangerous than milk chocolate. So even if your dog ate a few M&Ms and was okay, doesn’t mean he can eat a batch of mom’s homemade brownies and survive. Also, a dog can develop a theobromine sensitivity at any age. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity may include some or all of the following symptoms: Moderate to severe vomiting or diarrhea, excitability and nervousness, muscle tremors and/or seizures, heart failure (death).
Some popular holiday plants are also toxic to pets, primarily dogs. Specifically, Holly (berries), Mistletoe (all), and Poinsettia (all). Other plants or decorations may be sprayed or treated with a chemical or perfume, which may also be toxic. Symptoms of poisoning include digestive upset, irritation to the mouth and stomach lining, skin irritation, central nervous system depression, exhaustion, coma, heart failure (death).
If your dog (or cat) ingests one of these plants or chocolate, and is alert, it is best to get it out of his system. To induce vomiting in a dog, place a teaspoon full of table salt on the very back part of his tongue, and confine him to an area you can easily clean. For cats, use one-half of a teaspoon (and good luck getting it in there, try putting the salt into a straw to get it further back in the cat’s mouth). Within a few minutes, he should empty his stomach of everything he has eaten in the previous few hours. Clean it up promptly so he doesn’t try to eat it again. Once you have started this process, or if your dog is not alert, call your veterinarian or animal emergency clinic immediately. Let them know what happened and exactly what symptoms your pet is experiencing. The ASPCA 24-hour Pet Poison Control hotline is: 888-426-4435 ($65 fee).
Some pets enjoy eating Christmas tree ornaments and/or tinsel and ribbon. Tinsel, like glass, can slice through the lining of as animal’s stomach and intestines. It can also wrap around the intestines and cause a blockage. If you suspect your pet has eaten any decorations, call your veterinarian and tell him or her how much and what exactly your pet ate. The preferred course of action, for small amounts of glass or tinsel, is feeding the animal white bread or cotton balls soaked in half and half (you may want to keep a small carton of half and half in the freezer). A large dog (over 65 lbs) would need 7-8 slices of WHITE bread. As the bread travels through the animal’s digestive tract, it will surround the foreign bodies and help them to pass without incident. You must watch the animal’s stool for blood. If you see blood in the stool, call your vet immediately.
If you have any questions about other holiday hazards, or pets in general, please e-mail me at TopDog@refinedcanine.com.
Happy (and SAFE) HOWLidays!
Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC