Christmas Time Hazards
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 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 to place ornaments low on the tree where pets can dislodge them.
4) Electrical Cords: All kinds of pets are susceptible to the 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 (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.
11) Marijuana: Like alcohol, marijuana may be enjoyable for humans but can be toxic to your pet. Animals exposed to marijuana demonstrate neurological signs including depression or alternating depression and excitement, lack of coordination, hallucinations with barking or agitation, seizures or coma, and death. About a third of exposed animals will demonstrate gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, dry mouth, or drooling. Their body temperature may be too high or too low, respiration and heart rate may increase or conversely, heart rate becomes too slow pupils can become dilated, and some animals may leak urine. These clinical signs can develop within minutes up to 3 hours after exposure. The drug may be eliminated quickly (over several hours), but can be absorbed into fat making signs last for up to 3-4 days.
12) Christmas Globes: That pretty Christmas globe can become a life-threatening hazard if it breaks. Ethylene Glycol is used in many globes to suspend the pretty snowflakes we love to watch fall. If ingested by your pet it can cause life-threatening kidney damage. Call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet has been exposed. Antidotes are available and work well if administered in time.