Toxic holiday plants: The tree, mistletoe, and poinsettias
Mistletoe is a highly toxic plant. The whole plant is toxic, especially the berries. Signs of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypothermia, increased urination, heart rate abnormalities, and CNS signs including dizziness, delirium, ataxia, seizures, coma, and death. There is no antidote so prompt emesis (vomiting) and lavaging the stomach is required to prevent intoxication. Do not leave Mistletoe where your pet can reach it, and if ingestion occurs, bring your pet to your veterinarian or to an emergency clinic immediately.
Poinsettias are beautiful plants, but their sap, leaves, and stems are toxic. They cause severe irritation of the oral cavity and esophagus. Pawing at the mouth, coughing, and choking, retching, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramping or temporary blindness can all be signs of exposure or ingestion of a poinsettia. While ingestion is rarely fatal, supportive care is usually required and the wounds are quite painful. Please keep your pet away from poinsettia plants.
Don't let Aunt Martha feed Rex her ham, sweet potatoes, turkey, eggnog and pumpkin pie. These highly rich foods can cause all sorts of tummy trouble. Make sure that all scraps and trash are placed in places where your pets can not reach them. Post-holiday intestinal ailments (I can't believe I ate the whole thing) are common and mild in people, but much more serious in pets. Besides causing inflammation that can cause anorexia, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, dogs and cats can get a severe, life-threatening inflammation to the pancreas, which is due to rich, high fat foods that our pets can not handle. Even small amounts can cause serious problems. If you want to give your pet something special, buy a special treat designed for dogs and cats. For pets on a special prescription diet, please ask your veterinarian before giving any food treats.
The holiday season is a time filled with joy, laughter, and candy. Dogs (and some cats) love the sweet stuff and will binge on chocolate candies if they can get their paws on them. We have seen dogs eat whole boxes of candy, wrappers and all. Ingesting too much of anything can cause tummy trouble, but chocolate has other toxic properties as well. It contains two (2) strong stimulants, caffeine and theobromine. Together they can cause numerous problems including vomiting, diarrhea, elevated blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, nervousness, seizures, coma, urinary incontinence, excessive panting, and death. There is no antidote to chocolate toxicity so early treatment and prevention are crucial.
Chocolate is very tasty and has a strong odor. Dogs and cats know where it is, even if you leave it lying on the counter. They still can grab it, even if it is in a box and presumably out of reach. Unsweetened chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate. If your pet ingests chocolate, the toxic amount depends on your pet's size. One (1) pound of milk chocolate or 3 to 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate would be lethal to a 16-pound dog if left untreated. It is a good rule to call your veterinarian immediately if your pet ingests chocolate. If they do ingest chocolate, what can they do? If it is within a matter a few hours, they can try to block the absorption of the chocolate by causing vomiting and using activated charcoal to decrease absorption. The sooner that your veterinarian does this, the less chocolate that will be absorbed. If it is too late, your vet will use supportive measures to try to keep the symptoms at bay while the liver tries to remove the toxins. Please keep candies well away from your pet's reach, and if they do eat some, call your veterinarian right away.
Tinsel: a holiday nightmare
How many of us have watched our cats play with string, tinsel, or ropes? They can have a lot of fun with these objects as toys, but these objects can be deadly if swallowed. While both dogs and cats can get a serious, life-threatening intestinal obstruction from tinsel and other string-like objects, cats are notorious for doing this. What happens is they swallow a small piece and/or it wraps around their tongue, they then continue to swallow more in an attempt to clear the object, then the tinsel gets caught up in the intestinal tract. The intestines are quite long and a long straight object cannot pass, especially if one end is hooked around the teeth or the tongue. With time, the tinsel would start cutting through the intestines, causing bowel perforation, peritonitis, and death. This condition, called a linear foreign body, requires immediate surgical intervention to remove the object. Early signs of obstruction are vomiting, anorexia, abdominal pain, and lethargy. The best thing is to keep tinsel and other string-like objects out of reach and to never let your pet play with them unattended. If your pet swallows one, please get veterinary attention immediately. Ribbons can cause the same problems as the tinsel.