Listen for free as we have fun talking about the holidays and raise awareness of potential dangers to pets.
We know that Christmas has its own set of wonders, but we also know it has some dangers for pets. Are they what you thought?
1. Mistletoe– Real mistletoe is very toxic to both dogs and cats (as well as humans). If you hang it, make sure it stays out of reach. Symptoms of ingestion can include some very bad signs, like GI upset, cardiac collapse, and erratic behavior. If you think that your pet has eaten mistletoe, go to the animal ER as soon as possible. *Interesting side note– Poinsettia often appears on lists like these, but I have NEVER treated a pet for poinsettia ingestion. Either they are very unlikely to actually eat it or it isn’t as toxic as purported. Either way, it could still cause stomach upset, so keep pets away.
2. Sweet Treats– I don’t think that people realize that xylitol (sugar substitute found in many sugar free candies and gum) is toxic to pets. Cats are not likely to eat sweets because they probably cannot taste sweet flavors, so this more of a dog thing. I have seen many canine patients in danger from eating a whole pack of sugar free gum. Fortunately, the owners had all discovered the transgression and rushed in, but I have heard of others who were not so lucky. Holidays pose a risk of exposure to increased temptations, both sweet and sugar free, that are not good for pets. I think that a good rule of thumb is to keep everything not specifically pet-labeled out of reach. As always, remember that chocolate, grapes, and raisins are on the list of foods not suitable for pets.
3. Tinsel-Tinsel, like Easter grass, is a holiday accompaniment that I could cheerfully do without. It doesn’t do our pets any good either. Cats especially find tinsel and grass fascinating and will eat them. The trouble is, as your cat gnaws and plays, those long strands of indigestible, virtually unbreakable, synthetic can become wrapped around the base of the tongue where you would not see it unless you really knew how to check. When its other end is swallowed
4. Ornaments– Christmas tree ornaments can be enticing for pets to play with. I have surgically removed them from the intestines of several patients. I suggest keeping the tree and other decorations inaccessible to pets when possible. If pets must be unattended during the holidays, it might be wise to confine them to a safe room or crate. Surgical foreign body removal can be economically expensive and medically life threatening. Products are available for teaching pets to avoid danger, however, and a hidden transmitter with a diameter zone can provide invisible protection around the Christmas tree with a humane buzz.
5. Electric cords– Electric cords are interesting to pets, but chewing them causes burns in the mouth and some serious secondary complications, such as fluid in the lungs. You need emergency help if your pet bites an electrical cord.
6. Open doors– Many pets escape and are lost in the dark when doorways are so frequently open for guests. It is always a good idea to microchip your pet, even indoors-only ones. Be SURE to register the chip with an international database and keep your info current. We always encourage our clients to list us as their veterinarian so that if they can’t be reached timely, we can be given the opportunity keep pets safely with us temporarily.
7. Fatty meals-Holidays are festive and in this country they frequently center around meals. Many of the foods that we love for the holidays can serve as a hazard for pets and ANY food can be hazardous to pets in excessive quantities. Post-holiday visits to Applebrook often include cases of pancreatitis. This inflammation of the pancreas, found in both dogs and cats, is not only painful but also life threatening. For dogs especially, acute pancreatitis results from eating high fat meals. Some dog and cat breeds and individuals are predisposed to this problem, and victims seem to be more vulnerable to certain foods than to others (at least in my practice). Pancreatitis is a tricky condition, but it’s largely preventable: just do your best to avoid risk factors.
8. Spices– It often comes as a surprise that what seems like an indulgent treat for a dog or cat may actually be a health hazard. For example, no matter how much you yourself enjoy a nice dish of spaghetti, anything with garlic and onions can harm your pet so resist your inclination to share it. Abnormal destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia) and gastrointestinal difficulties may be the dangerous, unintended consequence. Since the hard way is the only way to determine how severely your pet could be affected, it is obviously best to withhold garlic and onions completely, even at Christmas.
9. Kids’ toys– Toys that are small or have small parts are always an ingestion risk for pets. Obviously few of these are digestible, so when one lodges in the intestines, it can provoke a surgical emergency. A pet suffering from complete intestinal blockage is usually very sick with multiple incidents of projectile, foul vomiting even when not eating but only drinking water. When your pet can’t hold down clear water, you have an emergency that cannot wait for your vet to return from holiday. Get to the animal ER immediately.
10. Hustle and Bustle– With new people, and probably lots of them, both children and adults, joining you during the holidays, your pet is seeing lots of new faces, hearing lots of new voices, and smelling lots of new scents. Some pets don’t like noise, fear strangers, dislike children, or just don’t manage change very well. Try to be sensitive to your pet’s needs. Give him/her a safe place to hide (like a crate or a quiet bedroom) and warn new people to go slowly. Make sure your cat can easily access the litterbox without confronting a crowd; otherwise, you could be asking for “accidents.”
11. Cold weather/frozen water (outdoor pets)- Don’t forget outdoor pets in the chaos of the holidays. Make sure they have fresh (not frozen) water and are appropriately sheltered.
12. Disruption of schedule with meds and potty breaks – Some pets require daily or more frequent medications, like insulin or thyroid supplements. Set a reminder on your cell phone or leave a note for yourself so the preparation and merriment don’t cause you to forget or mistime meds. And don’t neglect to walk your dog! Never is exercise and attention more necessary than when the family is distracted and the household disordered.
13. Trash– Keep in mind that a family’s trash is a pet’s treasure, no matter how dangerous. Animals exercise no discretion when it comes to digging for tasty smelling leftovers. Make absolutely certain that ALL the trash is inaccessible to pets.
*Above all, the holidays are a time to enjoy friends and family. As you celebrate loved ones, include those with fur!
So, my clients all know that I frown on giving “people food” to pets. But I have pets and I know how it is. We love them and we want to include them on the festivities. I am going to tell you how to include them and NOT see me in the following days with vomiting/diarrhea and a variety of symptoms known as “dietary indiscretion”.
Choose wisely. If you think that a food item is not the best idea for you, don’t give it to your pet and there are, of course, ingredients that must be avoided for pets specifically, even though they aren’t toxic to us.
Examples might include:
Highly fatty foods, like ground beef or bacon can cause severe disease in some pets, like emergency pancreatitis. Thanksgiving morning brunch with eggs and sausage is not dog friendly!
Chocolate is never a great idea for pets. No onions, garlic, grapes, raisins or bones should be offered to dogs.
I personally avoid highly processed foods, like breads and pastries for my dogs (and myself).
Remember “all things in moderation”. Never give dogs all the leftover mashed potatoes or clean out the fridge on Black Friday dumping all of it on the dog!
Good choices might include giving a green bean or two or maybe a carrot. Dessert for your dog could be a piece of melon. My dogs are grateful to be included and are very excited about anything that I give them. They never stop and look at me like I should have given them something tastier!
Most pets are just happy to have all the excitement and visitors and the treats are secondary. Pets show us what being thankful is all about and I am thankful for them!
You think that your home is the safest place for your cat, right? There ARE dangers in your home and you need to know what they are.
We talk with Dr. Tom Day who is a specialist in Emergency and Critical care for pets. He shares which are the most common household reasons he sees cats in his ER practice. These emergencies are preventable with a little forethought, but how can you plan if you don’t know? From medications to plants to things that seem ok, Dr. Day and I are here to help! You might guess some of these dangers, but you might be surprised. Learn what you can do to prevent these tragedies. Save your cat a stressful visit to the ER and maybe save his/her life.
When we think of Halloween, black cats are as much a part of the decorations as pumpkins and witches. But your house cat is not. Halloween is a fun and festive occasion, but there are parts of any holiday that cause stress and even risk to your cat.
Some of the Halloween traditions include parties and door traffic. We often have music or scary noises with candles or spooky decorations. So much is going on that a frightened cat could easily be overlooked.
Halloween decorations may pose a hazard to a curious cat. Orange and black string or tinsel that can be a part of the costumes and wall art can be a delightful attraction to a cat or kitten that becomes less delightful when swallowed where it can become a gastrointestinal foreign body. Empty candy bags and shopping bags can become a suffocation hazard when played with unattended. Cats can knock over candles creating a fire hazard. Other Halloween dangers can include glow sticks. Glow sticks are non-toxic, but the liquid tastes very foul and will cause excessive drooling which can be alarming. It is better to keep them out of an inquisitive cat’s reach too.
Cats instinctively fear things that are new and different so family members in disguise could be quite disarming to a cat. If you are celebrating the Halloween season with a party or offering Trick-Or-Treats, it is very wise to secure your cat in a safe room away from noise, traffic and lights. Make sure there is a sign on the door, PLEASE DO NOT LET THE CAT OUT. If you have trained your cat that his carrier is a safe place (and you should!), make sure the carrier is inside the safe room with the usual blanket inside. It should be away from windows. Covering it with a towel might also make it seem safer.
Cats can become frightened and slip through doorways and are lost in the dark. It is always a good idea to microchip every pet, even indoor only ones and be certain that you register the chip with the international database and keep your info current. Then, if your cat is found after the holiday, she can be scanned by rescues or vets and returned to you. Microchipped cats are over 20 times more likely to be gotten home than unidentified cats.1
Halloween is a festive time that ushers in the fall. Everyone enjoys the tricks and treats, but the spooks are not so fun for your cat. Take a moment to consider how this all seems to him and make some accommodations to keep him safe and happy.
1. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,July 15, 2009, Vol. 235, No. 2, Pages 160-167, doi: 10.2460/javma.235.2.160
Would you know if your cat was in an emergency situation? On this episode, Dr. Chris Byers, CriticalCareDVM, tells us the most common reasons he sees cats and how cat lovers can tell when it is time to go to the animal ER. Check it out for FREE by clicking the link below.
It is holiday season and treats are everywhere. Some of my patients have already raided the stocking stash and after Santa comes, even more goodies will be lying around. We are baking and snacking and our dogs are a part of the family. Why can your dog not be a part of all the merry making like everyone else? Well, there is a very good reason. Many of our treats and goodies contain chocolate. Dogs are different from humans. There are ingredients in the chocolate that can make them very ill, or could even be fatal.
There are two ingredients toxic to dogs in chocolate, theobromine and caffeine. Caffeine can cause tremors, increased heart rate, and other cardiovascular side effects. Theobromine is actually the more dangerous of the two, as even low doses of it will require medical treatment.
Each dog will react differently to the ingestion of chocolate, so if you see your dog eat it, don’t waste time searching for the answer online. If your regular vet is open, they are your first stop. If not, then call the animal ER, or even the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. If suspect your dog ate chocolate, you need to call!
It will help if you know what type of chocolate it was and how much was in the package. Different kinds of chocolate contain differing amounts of the toxic components. White chocolate and milk chocolate are the least hazardous. Dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate are the most hazardous, since they contain the highest amounts of theobromine.
Your vet will need to know how roughly much was consumed and then will then be able to calculate the toxic dose to use as a guide for the aggressiveness of treatment. Also, bring the label because it contains information about any other ingredients, like xylitol (which is toxic on its own). It helps to know what kind of wrapper might have gone down with the chocolate too, in case it could cause a physical obstruction.
Also, if you can remember how much of the chocolate was left in the bag, the vet would appreciate an idea of how much was consumed. Ask your family members if they know before you leave. If you are not sure, it is always better to assume the dog ate more than he did and be aggressive in treatment, rather than be sorry because you were too conservative.
Chocolate is not the only holiday offender, but is one of the more common ones. Other kinds of “people food” can cause problems too. Be overly cautious about keeping things out of reach of nosey canines. Have a happy and safe holiday with no visits to the animal ER!