Holiday Hazards – By: Dr. Cindy Krane
Holiday Hazards – By: Dr. Cindy KraneDate: December 1, 2012
With the Holidays approaching, ‘tis the season to be jolly. However for our four legged friends, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be a stressful one. The daily stressors from traveling, visiting friends and family, can upset our pet’s routines and schedules. Additionally, house guests may not be as mindful about keeping food and medications out of reach, not leaving stuff on the floor, and/or keeping the doors securely closed. This can lead to our pets’ getting into things which may cause acute problems.
Decorations (like tinsel), and presents (with ribbons and bows), can be particularly problematic for pets. If ingested they can cause intestinal obstructions (linear foreign body) which can be life threatening and may require emergency surgery. The holiday lighting and extension cords are tempting as well, and pose another risk to our furry family members. Kittens and puppies may chew on the plastic, exposing the wires which may causing severe oral burns or even worse, electrocution and/or death. Holiday plants such as Poinsettias, holly, missal toe and the Christmas tree water may be toxic; causing a varying degrees of gastro-intestinal upset.
On average Americans gains seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Many of us are tempted to include our pets in the festivities. Pet’s weight gain comes from the table scrapes, new bones and treats we give them, to the food they steal from the counter tops and trash can. These leftovers lead to one of the most common reasons seen by veterinarians during the holiday season. Some of the symptoms of ingesting garbage, chicken bones, fatty foods or sugary treats, frequently results in vomiting and diarrhea. Some cases are mild and can be treated as out-patients, while others can be more severe, and may lead to hospitalization of the patient. Some can be managed by resting the gut, bland diet (low fat, low fiber, highly digestible foods like rice, pasta, cottage cheese, chicken) and anti-emetics (Pepcid and similar medications). Other cases can be more severe and require IV fluids for dehydration, or surgical intervention for gastric or intestinal foreign bodies. Ingestion of fatty foods is thought to be an initiating factor in pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). The pancreas normally secretes lipase and amylase to aid in the digestion of food, and triggered, through a cascade of enzymatic reactions. The clinical signs can mimic those of acute gastro-enteritis,(vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy), and include fever and abdominal pain. Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden onset), or chronic (long term); the clinical course can range from mild to life threatening.
Desserts can be very tempting and equally dangerous to our pets as the main course. Chocolate is considered very toxic to dogs. It contains compounds called methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine) that can cause, when ingested in toxic amounts, cardiac and neurologic side effects. Initially vomiting and diarrhea, excessive thirst, increased heart rate and hyperactivity are noted; if untreated it can progress to tremors, seizures and death. As a general rule the more bitter the chocolate the more toxic the chocolate. Unsweetened baking chocolate is 10 times more toxic than milk chocolate, and white chocolate contains only a negligible amount of cocoa beans. For those of us watching our calories or sugar intake, Xylitol (sugar substitute) seems like a great alternative; however, it is very dangerous for dogs causing life threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or liver failure.
Fruit is also a part of our festivities, but please avoid grapes (and raisins) since they may be toxic too, which can lead to kidney failure. On the other hand, Cranberries are not known to be toxic, so you can safely include them in your holiday feasts. This holiday season, we need to be prepared as well as safe and to remember our pets during the process. Have a wonderfully safe holiday season!