It’s that time of the year again! Holiday treats, decorations and family gatherings! While each of these things brings joy and delight to the holiday season, they also carry with them hazardous threats to our four-legged family members.
When it comes to the edible hazards of the holiday season, many of you will read this and think, “Okay, well I already knew that.” Something to think about, are the people coming and going from your holiday party that have no clue what may be incredibly dangerous to offer your pet. Aside from the possibility of weight gain, the reinforcement of begging and the “soft poopies” you’re stuck picking up in the backyard, a lot of your guests may be clueless as to which foods are severely hazardous to your pet’s health. Sure, it may seem as though food like chocolate and raisins are common sense; but you’d be surprised how many people have no idea garlic, avocado and onions are also toxic for dogs.
Garlic, Onions, and Avocado
Onions and garlic in any form (powdered, raw, cooked, or dehydrated) are a serious No-No for dogs. These foods cause anemia by killing red blood cells. Signs and symptoms to look for are weakness, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
Avocados contain persin, which can be dangerous to dogs. So, if you grow avocados in your garden, make sure your dog steers clear. Persin is carried in the leaves, seed, bark, as well as the fruit. Signs of avocado toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea and lack of stool production.
Grapes, Raisins, and Salty Foods
Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. It only takes a small amount to make your dog sick. Persistent vomiting is an early sign, and within a day your dog will appear sluggish and depressed.
Salty foods in general should always be avoided. Ingesting too much salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning in your dog, which can be fatal. Symptoms to watch for are vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, fever and seizures.
Meats and Fish
Giving your dog fat trimmed from both cooked and uncooked meat can cause pancreatitis. Raw meat and fish carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning in your dog. Certain raw fish (such as salmon, trout, and sturgeon) contain parasites that can make dogs extremely ill. Look for signs that include vomiting, fever and enlarged lymph nodes. Giving your dog the bone can cause choking, obstruction, or splinters that create cuts in your dog’s digestive system.
As mentioned above, Alcohol can be very toxic to your 4 legged friend. Other edible liquids to keep your dog away from are coffee, tea and anything else containing caffeine (including coffee beans, cocoa, colas and energy drinks). Caffeine is potentially fatal. Signs to look for are restlessness, fast breathing and muscle twitches.
Xylitol, Dairy, Chocolate, Yeast, macadamia nuts, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and Alcohol
Now that we’ve covered some of the dangers your pet faces when Uncle Jack thinks he’s being a nice guy by sneaking Max some goodies under the table during dinner, let’s go over the hazards found in all those delicious holiday baked goods. While offering a dog a tiny piece of cookie or cake may seem harmless, the harm may actually lie in the goodies’ ingredients.
Too much sugar carries the same threats to dogs as it does to humans: dental issues, weight gain and diabetes. Xylitol, a commonly used sweetener, is tremendously toxic to your dog. It can cause a severe drop in blood sugar and liver failure, which can happen within just a few days. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy and coordination problems. Eventually, it can cause seizures.
Milk and other dairy products can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems for your dog. Your dog may even have allergies to certain dairy products, which can cause itching.
Chocolate (more specifically, the theobromine in chocolate) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, tremors, seizures and even death. Theobromine is found in all types of chocolate, although the most hazardous types are dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate.
Yeast dough is another potentially fatal ingredient to keep away from your dog during the baking process. If consumed, the dough will expand, or “rise”, in your dog’s stomach. This can cause painful and dangerous stretching of the abdomen. Also, as the yeast ferments in the dog’s stomach (which is what causes it to “rise”), it creates alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning.
Any baked good containing macadamia nuts should never be given to your dog. It only takes six raw or roasted macadamia nuts to make a dog ill. Symptoms to watch for are muscle shakes, vomiting, fever and weakness in the hind legs. Consuming chocolate with macadamia nuts will make these symptoms even worse and possibly fatal.
Some baking spices commonly used and highly toxic to your pup include baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Not only is it important to make sure our dogs are not eating things containing these spices, but to also make sure we are keeping our pantry doors closed and all spices out of their reach!
Another commonly used ingredient in holiday baked goods is alcohol. It takes only a small amount of beer, liquor, wine or food containing alcohol to be extremely harmful to your dog. It can cause detrimental effects to both the brain and liver, and the smaller the dog, the worse it can be. Alcohol consumption can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, coordination problems, difficulty breathing, coma and even death.
Not all hazards of the holiday season are edible. Some are even decorative. One of the most universally used holiday decorations, the Christmas tree, has a set of hazards all its own. One of them being that your cat may think you have provided him or her with a brand new climbing post. I don’t think I have to explain the dangers of this, especially if your tree were to fall over. The pine needles, whether real or fake, may be sharp and hazardous if swallowed. If you have a real tree, you may also have a dog who likes to drink the water that nourishes it. Bacteria, molds and fertilizers the water may contain can cause your pet to become ill after ingesting only a small amount.
Another hazard that comes with the Christmas tree may be the ornaments hanging from it. Not all ornament-type incidents are intentional. If you have a happy-tailed pup like I do, you want to make sure you avoid any occurrence of a sharp or glass ornament falling from the tree and shattering on the floor. Every year the bottom 3 feet of my tree is completely bare, keeping any and all ornaments out of her tail’s reach.
One decorative item to consider skipping all together if you have a cat in the household is tinsel. Being a shiny string, how could it not attract your cat’s attention? Being so thin and sharp, it carries the potential hazard of becoming wrapped around the intestines or balled up in the stomach once ingested.
Electrical cords and outlets should also be out of your pet’s reach this holiday season, especially if you have a curious kitten or puppy. Burns and electrical shocks are the biggest hazards associated with these.
While mistletoe and holly may feel like holiday staples when decorating your home, they are both extremely toxic to pets. They can cause severe gastrointestinal disorders, difficulty breathing and heart failure if ingested.
In Case of an Emergency
I know it’s impossible to be in two places at once, so if you do have some potentially hazardous holiday items around the house, make sure to crate your pet or confine them to a safe area when you can’t be there to monitor them. If your pet has become injured, or may have ingested something dangerous and/or toxic, call Webster Veterinary Clinic immediately. If you have a pet medical emergency and we are not open, you should have the phone number and location of Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services within easy reach (585)-424-1277, 825 White Spruce Blvd. Rochester 14623).
Check out the ASPCA for their helpful pet articles on holiday dangers at http://aspcapro.org/resourc
The point of this article is not to scare you, but to educate and help you educate the loved ones you share the holiday season with. After all, our dogs and cats are family too; and they deserve to share in the joy of the holiday season same as us, hazard-free.
From all of us here at Webster Veterinary Clinic, we wish you a joyful holiday season and a prosperous new year!
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