Ask the Vet: Keep your pets safe during the holidays
By Matthew Kearns, DVM
The winter holidays. Time to enjoy family and friends, eat good food, drink good drink, and celebrate. The holidays also present potential hazards for our pets. Here is a short list of potential holiday hazards.
Candy and Chocolate Poisoning: First, chocolate contains two chemicals (caffeine and theobromine) which are powerful stimulants. Mild symptoms usually begin within 6-12 hours after ingestion and include panting, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination. Severe cases include irregular heart rhythms, seizures, coma, and death. There are specific toxic levels for all pets but just like people some dogs and cats can be very sensitive to chocolate and show signs of poisoning from much lesser amounts.
Second, chocolate is very high in sugar and fat. Minimally, this will give your pet a tummy ache but I have personally seen a few cases of serious gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, liver disease from ingestion of chocolate.
Macadamia Nuts: The exact portion of the nut that is toxic to dogs is unknown at this time but veterinary toxicologists (poison experts) suspect that it has to do with something in the oil. Signs include tremors, seizures, and irregular heart rhythms. Be careful about leaving macadamia nuts or nut mixes with macadamia nuts in them within the reach of your dogs.
Medications: Both prescription and over the counter medications can do great harm to our pets. A single ibuprofen or acetaminophen tablet could be potentially fatal to a small dog or cat and could cause serious illness even in a larger dog.
Poisonous Plants: Winter Lillies, Poinsettas, Mistletoe, Holly, and other seasonal plants can lead to an upset stomach in some cases, but in others can potentially cause irregular heart rhythms, kidney failure, ulcers of the mouth, etc. Best to keep these plants away from your pets or consider not decorating your house with them if you are concerned that your pet may chew or ingest them.
Hazards Around the Christmas Tree: Christmas tree water can contain fertilizers or other chemicals can make your pet severely ill if ingested. Electric cords, tinsel, ribbons, glass ornaments, etc should either be secured away from curious pets or possibly removed to prevent electrocution, intestinal obstructions, or other internal organ damage.
Alcohol and Old (spoiled) Food: Curious pets will take advantage of a late-night party and get into these items after you go to bed. Make sure to clean up so that you do not have to worry about your pet ingesting leftover cocktails and treats that may have mold or bacteria growing on it.
Yeast Dough: The same yeast that helps the dough to rise can lead to problems in our pets. The yeast itself is potentially poisonous and the dough can continue to rise in the pet’s stomach causing painful and potentially harmful consequences.
If you know of a poisonous exposure or potential poisonous exposure call the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) at (888) 426-4435. This hotline is staffed with experts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season, as well as a prosperous 2023. I also want to thank Heidi Sutton and all the staff at Times Beacon Record News Media and affiliates for another great year.
Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.