Winter Holiday Safety

By: Kelsey, CVT 12/12/2018

Keep your holiday season merry and bright by keeping these holiday pet hazards in mind this season!

Decorations: Tinsel is a fun decoration that can turn any tree into a festive one. But its shine and shimmer can also attract your cat to it, as it mimics many popular cat toys. This shiny string can be fatal if ingested as it can cause severe damage to the intestinal tract if swallowed and left untreated.

Poinsettias are one of the more popular plants seen during the holidays and are only mildly toxic to both cats and dogs. More dangerous plants are those often found in holiday bouquets, including lilies, holly, and mistletoe. Lilies are the most dangerous of those listed above. “The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats,” reports Dr. Ahna Brutlag (Pet Poison Helpline). Other plants to watch out for are holly berries and mistletoe, which can be toxic and cause both gastrointestinal and cardiac issues.

Some imported snow globes have recently been found to contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze). This chemical is extremely toxic to dogs, even an amount as little as one teaspoon. Signs of poison exposure include loss of coordination, excessive thirst, and slight to extreme lethargy. Although physical symptoms may improve after 8-12 hours, internal damage is still present. Crystals from the ethylene glycol form in the kidneys, causing acute kidney failure. If your pet ingests this, immediate treatment is vital.

Food and Alcohol: Fruitcakes are a holiday favorite for many, but watch out for those containing grapes, raisins, and currants as those food items can cause kidney failure. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, which is highly toxic to both cats and dogs. Small amounts of ingestion can cause vomiting and diarrhea, however larger amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias. Sugarless gum and candies often contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. It causes fatal drops in blood sugar and liver failure. Table scraps that include fatty meat scraps can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and even pancreatitis.

Alcohol quickly affects pets due to its rapid absorption into the bloodstream. It can cause very dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and basal temperature. Once intoxicated, animals may experience seizures and respiratory distress/failure. Alcohol can be found in not only the obvious beverage, but also unbaked dough that contain yeast. Other symptoms to watch out for include vomiting, disorientation, and stomach bloat.

Source: Pet Poison Helpline, 2018. “Winter Holiday Pet Poison Tips”