10 Holiday Hazards That Can Send Your Pet to the Veterinary Hospital

1) Potpourri: Liquid potpourri can make your home smell festive for the holidays but remember to keep it away from your pets.  If the worst happens and your pet swallows liquid potpourri or spills any of it on themselves, you may see some of the following: drooling in case of ingestion, burning of the skin or mouth, weakness and vomiting. If you think any potpourri may be left on your pet’s skin, bathe them ASAP and call your veterinarian.

2) Oh Christmas Tree: As beautiful as Christmas trees are, they can pose considerable danger to your pets.  Don’t make this the Christmas you remember because of the trip to the emergency room. Be sure to secure your tree properly so playful pets don’t topple it and injure themselves. 

3) Ornaments: Cats love to play with tinsel but it can be a deadly game.  If ingested tinsel can cause a linear foreign body capable of cutting through intestines. Signs may include loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten any tinsel.  Ornament hooks can also be a hazard.  They are easily swallowed by pets and can lodge in the stomach or intestines.  Even broken ornaments knocked from the tree can cut sensitive paw pads. In general, it is best not place ornaments low on the tree where pets can dislodge them.

4) Electrical Cords: All kinds of pets are susceptible to allure of chewing electrical cords. Once they come into contact with bare wire,  they can die suddenly or receive severe burns to the mouth.  Signs of electrical burns include drooling, blisters and swelling around the mouth and an unwillingness or inability to eat or drink.  This type of injury requires immediate veterinary care.

5) Poinsettias/Mistletoe: Both these plants are commonly used as decorative accents during the Holiday season.  Poinsettia can cause local irritation to the mouth, gums and GI tract if ingested.  Treat your pet by washing the sap off immediately to stop further irritation. If your pet is  vomiting or if their eyes appear inflamed, call your veterinarian  It is the berries of the Mistletoe that pose a danger to pets.  Depending on the amount ingested, symptoms can range from GI upset and vomiting to drooling, diarrhea, increased urination, and rapid heart rate and respiration.  All of these symptoms require immediate veterinary care.

6) Alcohol: Are there still people who think it is funny to feed pets alcohol?  Sadly the answer is yes.  It really doesn’t matter whether toxicity occurs by accident or intent; it is important to understand that pets can die from alcohol ingestion.  Alcohol poisoning is dependent on the amount of alcohol ingested as compared to an animal’s weight. That means when a small pet gets into an alcoholic beverage, it can cause a significant toxicity problem. According to Becky Lundgren, DVM, “Within 15 to 30 minutes after the pet has drunk the alcohol on an empty stomach (or within 1 to 2 hours on a full stomach); central nervous system signs (such as staggering, excitement, or decreased reflexes) can begin. Behavioral changes can be seen, as can an increased need to urinate. As the problem gets worse, the pet may become depressed, have a slow respiratory rate, or go into cardiac arrest. Puppies and kittens are at particular risk because of their small size and immature organ systems.”

7) Chocolate: Most people are aware that chocolate is bad for pets.  We just need to be extra careful to keep it away from them during the holidays.  As with most toxicities, problems with chocolate vary depending on the amount of cocoa, the size of the animal and the total amount ingested.  Again, a small pet that eats dark chocolate can be expected to have a much more severe problem.  Signs of toxicity include increased excitability, increased irritability, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, vomiting and diarrhea.  Be sure to call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet may have ingested chocolate.

8) Grapes/Raisins: Lots of Holiday breads and treats contain raisins or grapes. We love them but accidental ingestion by our pets can cause kidney problems.  If you suspect your pet may have ingested either call your veterinarian ASAP.

9) Burning Candles: This hazard doesn’t need a lot of explanation.  We all just need to remember to take extra care that candles are safely out of the way of rambunctious pets and children. 

10) Overindulgence: As tempting as it may be, please don’t share your holiday bounty with your pets. Too much fatty food can cause a bout of pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas caused by over secretion of the enzymes used to digest food) and land your pet in the emergency room.  Signs of pancreatitis include: vomiting, no or decreased appetite, an abdomen that is painful to the touch and/or a hunched appearance, fever, diarrhea, lethargy /depression, and dehydration.  Pancreatitis can be life threatening and requires immediate veterinary care.

So, please enjoy the holidays but remember keep a watchful eye on your pet as well.

ASPCA Poison Control:   888-426-4435

Hunter’s Story

Here is a letter from one of Animal Family Veterinary Care Center’s clients. This is an amazing story of one woman’s journey through veterinary medicine in her quest to save her beloved dog, Hunter. Thanks to Debbie for sharing her story with us:

October 10, 2010

Dearest Friends,

It has been almost 10 months since that devastating day that my precious Lab, Hunter, was diagnosed with a rare form of immune-mediated non-regenerative anemia, red cell aplasia. He was diagnosed on Christmas Eve, and on January 5th the veterinarian who had seen him since he was a puppy told me to take him home and love him. There was nothing more that could be done, my beloved Hunter was dying. We might have 2 weeks left.

Hunter the Dog & Animal Family Veterinary Care Staff

Hunter the Dog & Animal Family Veterinary Care Staff

I could not accept that my 6-year-old Lab, who had been my baby since I brought him home at 6 weeks of age, was dying. I KNEW it was NOT his time. I’d had surgery on my right foot on December 21st, and my foot was in a cast, so I could not drive, but I got on the phone that night and called Iowa Veterinary Specialties in Des Moines, IA to set up an appointment for Hunter with Dr. Derek Nestor as soon as possible.

They could see Hunter on Thursday morning. It was Tuesday night. And a blizzard was coming our way from the west (the direction we needed to go to get to Des Moines). In the meantime, I also talked on the phone with 2 other specialists that very night. Dr. Linda Aronson has been on the faculty at Tufts in Boston.

She put me in touch with Dr. Jean Dodds of California, a veterinary specialist in diseases of the blood in animals.

I also spoke with another specialist in this area, Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM.

I wasn’t going to let my Hunter die.

Teresa Azure, a dear friend, and a Foster Team Leader for K9 Kindness had taken Hunter to that very first vet appointment in December for me. And she was with me the night our veterinarian gave Hunter his death sentence. She never thought twice when I asked her to drive us to Des Moines that Wednesday of the blizzard. Another dear friend, Karlene Kentner, in Winterset, IA dropped everything, too, to meet us in Newton, IA that afternoon to take Hunter and me to IVS. She then put us up for the next 2 days, and she and her significant other, Mike Fletcher, drove on black ice to get us where we needed to be when we needed to be there.

I was praying, reading the Bible, and begging everyone for their prayers. Emails went out. People set up prayer chains and prayed for Hunter. Tuesday night when I first contacted Dr. Dodds, she told me then that Hunter was not going to die. And on Thursday morning after Dr. Nestor saw Hunter, he said the same thing. All I could do was thank God. But we had a long and difficult road ahead of us.

Only days later, Hunter needed his first blood transfusion. His PCV was 12%. It was a Sunday. Teresa drove us to the Animal Emergency Center where I had to leave my boy for the transfusion. An anonymous donation that day paid almost the entire bill for Hunter’s transfusion!

The staff at Animal Emergency Center came to know Hunter and me very well. It wasn’t even 2 weeks later, and Hunter had to have another transfusion. He was on 150 mg of Prednisone (he weighed about 95 lbs), and 50 mg of Azathiaprine. He was taking Soloxine for thyroid, and sucralfate and misoprostol for his stomach. Also, Marin and Pet Tinic to help build his blood back up (as per Dr. Dodds). I had a sheet on the kitchen counter with his dose and times for each one, with his food and medications all labeled. We had a regular pharmacy going!

About this time, we also found a new veterinarian. I was no longer comfortable with my former veterinarian. I’d heard good things about North Brady Animal Hospital (now called Animal Family Veterinary Care Center).

Dr. Rob Garro was the veterinarian who took on Hunter’s case. And he was totally devoted to getting my big guy well. He knew of Dr. Dodds and kept in touch with her and Dr. Nestor at IVS on a regular basis. He put together the treatment plan for Hunter, taking in their sound advice. At one point (because of the high dosage of Prednisone), Hunter could not empty his bladder completely and needed to be catheterized. Dr. Rob came in on days he had off, just to do this for Hunter. He started Hunter on medication for this, and it started to work just as everyone was ready to teach me how to insert the catheter.

Then Hunter lost most of his muscle tone. His head looked like it had caved in and that the skin was just stretched over the bones. He panted all night, and I would stay awake and worry. AEC visits showed that his heart and lungs were fine, but I needed the reassurance. He could no longer get on my bed or even get in the car. We had to lift him. He could not tolerate rolling over for his much-loved tummy rubs. Sometimes he had accidents in the house (and Hunter NEVER had accidents before this). It was cold outside and he was weak. I prayed and kept asking for prayers.

Then Hunter couldn’t blink his eyes. He needed eye drops to do that. The left side of his face was partially paralyzed. He drooled incessantly. His nose dried up and became brittle, so we used hemorrhoid medication to keep it moist. He limped. But his blood count was going UP!

Hunter’s fur never grew back from the shaving they did at IVS in January. He wore a sweatshirt that had been mine to keep him warm outside. But gradually we were able to wean him down from all the medications. His facial paralysis disappeared and he could blink on his own again! He was getting stronger day by day, too!

In July, he and I went back to Des Moines to see Dr. Nestor. He told us that he believed the DHPP booster that Hunter received in November 2009 had caused Hunter to become ill, (Dr. Dodds had also said this) and that Hunter should not have any other vaccinations again, except for rabies (as required by law). He felt that if Hunter’s illness ever returned, it could be quickly managed with the Azathiaprine alone, and Hunter’s recovery would be much quicker than this time. He suggested that if Hunter’s blood count was good, in a month, we should eliminate all medications. And in a month, IT WAS GOOD!

Hunter has been off all his medications (except the Soloxine, which he will take the rest of his life) now for almost 2 months. His blood work is good and his PCV has remained around 45%. He shed terribly after he went off the Prednisone, but that has stopped and he has finally grown back the fur where he was shaved in January. He can even jump on the bed! He runs and loves to fetch again. And most of all, he is Hunter. He turned 7 in April.

It was not Hunter’s time to leave me yet. Someday it will be. But not yet. All the donations, the prayers, the people who helped me (and you all know who you are!), made all the difference. I will never be able to thank Dr. Rob, and Animal Family or Dr. Nestor at IVS or Dr. Dodds enough. The staff at AEC was incredible, too. The love, caring, and support to both Hunter and me were incredible. A very special thanks go to Teresa Azure for taking Hunter and me to the vet during the time I couldn’t drive, and for being there, day or night on call if we needed her. Also to Karlene Kentner, for taking care of us in Des Moines during that blizzard while we were trying to get Hunter seen at IVS. And to Ann Jevyak, who drove us partway home from Des Moines in January. Her on beloved Charlie, (who she adopted from K9 Kindness) had just passed away a week before.

And a very, very special thanks to my dear friend, Barb Schine, in Roanoke Rapids, NC. She had been through this with one of her dogs years ago. She is the person that put me in touch with Dr. Aronson and Dr. Breitschwerdt (who had saved her dog). She was on the phone with me all hours of the day and night to reassure me, give me advice, cry with me, and listen to me. I don’t know what I would have done without her or any of you! (Jan Erceg, you are an angel, too!!!!)

The ride to get here today was hard, but worth every mile we traveled. I learned so much and found incredible friends and support. I learned that if you truly believe that the mountain will be moved, and do not waiver in your faith, the mountain will move. We moved a mountain for Hunter!

God bless every one of you.

With our love and gratitude,

Debbie and Hunter