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Keeping your Pet Safe this Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

This is an exciting season for people and their pets. Unfortunately, it can also be a dangerous season for pets. There are substances which are more prevalent during the holidays, some of which are innocuous to people but potentially fatal to pets. Home decorations can also cause injuries to pets.

Some Toxic substances and their Affects:

Anti-Freeze contains the toxic substance ethylene glycol. Other winterizing solutions may also contain this toxic compound. Unfortunately, many anti-freeze solutions are sweet to the taste and readily ingested by dogs and cats if they have access to them. The signs which are noted with ethylene glycol toxicity are due both to its effects as an alcohol and the fact that it is metabolized by the body in a manner which is toxic to the kidneys. Because definitive toxic levels have not been established, any ingestion is treated as potentially life threatening and aggressive treatment is necessary, including supportive care with intravenous fluids.

Chocolate contains two compounds, theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to animals. Depending on the amount ingested, these compounds may cause hyperactivity, a fast heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures and in high levels, animals develop coma and even die. The amount of toxin ingested is dependent on the type of chocolate. The general rule is that more bitter or dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain more theobromine.

Potpourri. Although the plant material itself may not be toxic, potpourri may contain oils and detergents which can be irritating. Signs of toxicity include irritation to the skin, mucous membranes, or gastrointestinal tract. More severe signs may be noted if detergents are present which can result in pain, redness of the skin and ulcerations of the skin or oral cavity. These signs are often noted if animals groom their coats and lick off the liquid. Although uncommon, life-threatening complications including ulceration or rupture of the gastrointestinal tract can occur.

Poinsetta toxicity is similar to potpourri, if ingested, it can cause oral irritation, vomiting and allergic reactions. Ingestion is most often seen in cats that chew on houseplants.

Holiday Meals Sharing part of a special meal including bones is discouraged. Dogs and cats have sensitive stomachs and any change in diet can cause vomiting; bones can get lodged in or perforate the intestines, requiring emergency surgery.

What do I do if I suspect my pet has ingested a toxic substance?

Your primary veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital should be contacted immediately. Inducing emesis (vomiting) is sometimes indicated for toxin ingestion. Inducing vomiting is usually most successful within 4 hours of toxin ingestion and is best done by a veterinarian in a hospital setting. You should not induce vomiting without contacting a veterinarian, as potentially serious consequences can result.

Another important resource: ASPCA Animal Poison Control: 1-888-426-4435, charges apply.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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