Holiday Hazards

The holidays are a time to gather with family, friends, and pets to celebrate this wonderful time of the year. It is also a time for indulging in special foods, and festively decorating our homes. Because many of those tasty treats and holiday decorations can be hazardous to our pets, we would like to share with you the following information. We hope to help make your holiday season safer and more enjoyable for you and your pets.

Ingesting foods that are rich and fatty can be a contributing factor to a serious disease called pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Normally, the pancreas produces enzymes that are released into the intestines to help digest food. In the case of pancreatitis, those same enzymes are activated prematurely and end up digesting the pancreas itself. This process can lead to serious illness if left untreated.

The most common signs of pancreatitis include:

  • Nausea (usually evident by licking of the lips)
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Lethargy

Early detection is key in the treatment of pancreatitis. The severity of the disease will determine the course of treatment. It is necessary to withhold food and water until the pancreas is healed, therefore, the patient is hospitalized on intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. Pain medication is administered to eliminate the severe discomfort pancreatitis will cause. Pancreatitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease.

Please call if you are worried that your pet is showing some of the signs listed. During the holidays and throughout the year, avoid feeding your pet any rich or fatty foods. Fried foods, meat trimmings, gravy, and pan drippings are some of the foods that should be avoided, even in small amounts. There are many things that your pets can eat around the holidays that won’t cause them any harm. If you would like to share your holiday food with your pets, give them small amounts of lean, unseasoned meats or vegetables. This way, they can share in your holiday experience, while decreasing the risk of pancreatitis.

Chocolate Toxicity
Chocolate toxicity is another potential holiday hazard. Chocolate contains a component called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs. The severity of your pet’s reaction is dependent on how much and what type of chocolate they eat.
The signs of chocolate toxicity include:

  • Hyper excitability
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Hyper irritability
  • Excessive urination
  • Diarrhea

If your pet ingests chocolate, it is important to know what kind, and how much was eaten. There are three types of chocolate; milk, semisweet, and baker’s. It is also important to determine at what time it was ingested. The next thing to do is call the animal hospital with all of your information. Your information, along with the weight and description of how your pet is acting will enable us to recommend the best treatment for you pet. The good news is that if your dog eats a few M&M’s or a Hershey’s Kiss, there should not be much cause for concern. Depending on the type of chocolate your dog eats, it can take a substantial amount to cause any ill effects.

The toxic level of chocolate is as follows:

  • 1 ounce per pound of body weight for Milk
  • 1 ounce per three pounds of body weight for Semisweet
  • 1 ounce per nine pounds of body weight for Baker’s

Do your best to keep chocolate treats out of your pets’ reach, and instruct your guests not to feed your pets such treats. There are many things your pets can eat around the holidays that won’t cause them any harm.

Other Holiday Hazards
Be careful how you deck your halls! Many of the things that make the holidays joyful can be hazardous to your pets. By taking a few precautions, we can make this wonderful time of year a safe one for our pets.

Ribbons and Tinsel
They are especially attractive to cats and kittens, so it’s best to avoid their use or at least put the tinsel up higher on the tree.

Glass Ornaments
Ornaments can be tempting play toys. Since they tend to be fragile and easily broken, place them up high and keep the non-breakable ornaments down low.

Electrical cords
Cords are a temptation to cats who like to play with string as well as puppies who like to chew. If your pet seems overly interested, try to tape cords so that they’re inaccessible.

Christmas Tree
If you are using a live tree, beware that additives to the water may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, if ingested. So, be sure to cover the base of the tree with a tree skirt.

Holiday Plants
Many of the plants that represent the holidays can be poisonous if ingested by your pet. Some to be aware of are: Poinsettias, Mistletoe, Holly, Lilies, and Amaryllis.