Every holiday season we take the opportunity to remind pet owners of the hazards that may exist in our houses during this festive time of year. The last thing you want when you’re busy visiting family and friends, buying gifts and baking cookies is to have to rush your furry friend to the veterinary hospital for emergency care. Be vigilant about which items below that you may have in your home during the holidays. Being proactive is the key to preventing pet poison panic!
Holly and mistletoe are popular holiday plants. The leaves and their berries have a greater toxicity level than the poinsettia plant. Symptoms include intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain.
Poinsettia plants have often been thought of as poisonous to pets when actually it is an unlikely occurrence. The plant’s leaves however, contain a sap that is irritating to the tissues of the mouth and esophagus which in turn leads to irritation, nausea and vomiting.
Christmas Lilies are often a popular gift at this time of year. These plants can be extremely dangerous to cats, even if only a small amount of the plant is ingested. All parts of the lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.
Chocolate and coffee are often festive treats during the holiday season. However, both contain stimulants called theobromine that can lead to tummy upset, hyper-excitement, a racing heart and even seizures. The levels of theobromine vary depending on the type of chocolate, so be sure to call your veterinarian immediately if your pet has ingested even a small amount.
Artificial sweeteners found in candies, gum and even some baked goods, are very toxic to our pets. Ingestion of this product called xylitol leads to a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels that can result in weakness and even coma.
Onions and garlic are common additives to many types of holiday fixings. However, ingestion can lead to damage of the red blood cells and ultimately anemia.
Tylenol is a common pain reliever and is often present in cold medications. It is particularly dangerous for cats as they lack the enzyme that breaks down the drug, so even a very small amount can cause liver failure. Another product often found in cold medication is phenylephrine (decongestant) which in large enough amounts leads to hyper-excitement, vomiting, diarrhea and even heart irregularities.
Antidepressants and amphetamines (used to treat ADD and ADHA) if ingested in large enough amounts can cause neurologic abnormalities such as tremors and seizures.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Advil and Aleve are drugs that should never be given to pets. Although they are often safe for humans, these medications can cause stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.
Accidental poisoning from common household items is unfortunately a common occurrence during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. If your pet has managed to ingest any of these products, please contact a veterinary hospital immediately. There is also the Pet Poison Helpline which is a 24-hour animal poison control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners who require assistance with treating a potentially poisoned pet. For more information, visit www.petpoisonhelpline.com.