Make Sure Your Pet Has a Safe Christmas

Beach Metro News

By Dr. Nigel Skinner • September 20, 2011 • Print This Article
THE HOLIDAY SEASON is upon us. Every season brings its own unique challenges and special considerations when it comes to keeping our pets healthy and happy.This holiday season in particular is one where paying a little extra attention could mean the difference between a night before Christmas where not a creature was stirring, and one spent panic stricken in a veterinary emergency clinic waiting room.

Certainly the number one threat to our canine companions at holiday time has to be chocolate. Most people know that chocolate can be deadly for pets. What you may not know is that there is a very significant degree of variability between types of chocolate in the amount of the toxic components, theo-bromine and caffeine. These two compounds are related and known as methylxanthines which are central nervous stimulants that in our pets can cause increases in heart rate, changes in heart rhythm, seizures and death.

Most chocolates that we purchase off the shelf are milk chocolate, whereas chocolate used in baking is generally less sweet but contains much higher levels of methylxanthines. In fact unsweetened baking chocolate contains levels roughly seven times those seen in regular milk chocolate.

Since there are many variables to consider, if your pet accidentally ingests chocolate call your vet or local emergency clinic right away. Your vet will be able to advise you based on the weight of your pet and the amount and type of chocolate ingested what action you need to take.

Not only is chocolate dangerous to our pets because it contains these toxic stimulants, like many of the edible offerings tempting us at this time of year, it is also very high in fat. Many rich and high fat foods can also be very dangerous to certain sensitive canines. Before the New Year flyers offering gym memberships for three cents a month start arriving, stop and think about where the extra leftovers and scraps might go. Many of us tend to over-indulge over the holiday season, try not to drag your ever vigilant tableside pooch down with you. Leftovers at any time should really not make up any part of your dogs diet, but “special treats” at this time of year could be killing them with kindness.

The next holiday hazard worth mention is not a toxic threat but a physical one, and pertains more to our feline friends. Tinsel and ribbon are a very prominent part of our decorating but both can present an especially hazardous temptation to cats. For whatever reason many cats find these things just irresistible. The trouble is they also can get them into a very unique and dangerous situation.

Once swallowed these can become what vets call linear foreign bodies, which are generally considered the most dangerous type of intestinal obstruction we encounter. Not only do they cause a blockage, as a stuck rubber ball or toy mouse might, they have a tendency to do severe damage to large portions of the intestines they encounter.

If you have cats it’s usually best to keep them away from the Christmas tree tinsel and the ribbons on the gifts underneath. If you have a cat that you know to be attracted to these things, it may be best to avoid them all together.

What about the good old poinsettia? Do an internet search on this very popular holiday plant and you’re likely to find at least a few sites that warn of its lethal toxicity to pets. This is not true and perhaps a case of mistaken identity. It is related to some toxic plants, but the holiday poinsettia, if ingested, is at most an irritant to the mouth and stomach. It may cause some drooling and perhaps even vomiting, but it is not poisonous to your pet.

On the other hand holly can cause severe gastrointestinal upset if consumed in sufficient quantity and mistletoe is known to be potentially toxic to the heart.

Consider that when giving your furry four legged companion their Christmas kiss!

So while you are enjoying this wonderful time of year, in all its usual hustle and bustle, try to keep in mind that some of our simple pleasures can be anything but for our animal companions.

Here’s wishing a happy and safe holiday season to you, your families and pets alike!