The holidays can be a time for joy and laughter with all the family, even your furry friends. But be aware there are some things in the household this season that can be harmful to your pets. Ingestion of foreign objects and toxicities are a big part of the holiday season in the veterinary world and can be easily avoided. Certain foods, drinks, and plants that are popular during Christmas can have a dangerous affect if ingested. Decorating the tree and wrapping presents can very quickly turn into a medical emergency if a foreign material is ingested, this can make the holidays not so merry and bright.
There are plenty of different foods that can make your pets sick even if only a small amount is ingested, such things as chocolate and cocoa which contain theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and heart arrhythmias. Different foods containing grapes, raisins, and currants that are ingested can cause kidney failure in pets which can result in long term damage if not treated quickly and appropriately. Many types or candies or gum contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to pets and can cause life threatening drops in blood sugar and liver failure. Leftover meats and fatty foods can cause inflammation in the pancreas, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and macadamia nuts are not always easily digested and can cause lethargy, vomiting, loss of muscle control, diarrhea, and even on occasion an intestinal obstruction.
Alcohol ingestion can also be very life threatening to pets because of its rapid absorption into the blood stream. Alcohol toxicity can cause dangerously low blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can also experience seizures and respiratory failure. Even some foods containing alcohol can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet ingests any type of food or alcoholic substance it is always the best option to consult pet poison control and call your veterinarian immediately.
Holiday trees, lighting, cords, ornaments, wrapping materials, tinsel, potpourri and even decorations around the house can cause issues for your pet if ingested. Real and fake Christmas tree needles, ornaments, hooks, and strings can affect the gastrointestinal tract and can cause obstructions or even rupture of the intestines. Wrapping materials such as tape, wrapping paper, and ribbons can also become an obstruction or cause vomiting and diarrhea. Certain lights can contain a chemical called methalyene chloride which can result in aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the skin, eyes, and intestinal tract.
Recently certain imported snow globes have been known to have ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) in the chemicals inside. Even as little as a teaspoon depending on the size of the pet can be fatal if not treated quickly. Animals who have ingested ethylene glycol will in the early stage act drunk or uncoordinated, will be excessively thirsty, and lethargic. Even though these early signs may subside, internal kidney damage can continue to worsen. Liquid potpourri can cause chemical burns, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors.
Lastly, holiday plants such as poinsettias, lilies, holly, and mistletoe can cause sudden kidney failure, gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrthymias if ingested. These plants are more toxic to cats than to dogs but many dogs will still have vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.
If your pet ingests any of the things mentioned above this is considered a medical emergency and treatment should be started as early as possible to prevent any long term damage. The best time to call if food is ingested is within the first hour of ingestion as less invasive treatments such as inducing emesis (vomiting) and supportive care can sometimes be done depending on the food ingested. If a foreign object is ingested call your veterinarian or emergency hospital immediately so your pet can be seen and assessed for treatment as certain object can cause serious harm to your pets stomach and intestines. If you ever question if something is toxic do not hesitate to call VCH or pet poison control to be safe.