‘Tis the season for decorations, cooking special meals and wrapping gifts. While it can be easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the FDA is reminding pet owners to watch out for temptations your pets may face this time of the year.
Stocking stuffers and pet treats
If your dog received a stocking full of pet treats, make sure they don’t eat them all at once. According to FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper, if they eat the treats whole, or eats too many at once, they may not be able to digest them. Unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the trachea or gastrointestinal tract, particularly in small dogs. If your dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, contact your vet immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.
Take note of timing as well, as symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, they may vomit and have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, and have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, the worst-case scenario is when a hole develops at the blockage site, causing a life-threatening infection.
Tinsel and ribbons
When decorating your tree and wrapping or unwrapping gifts, keep a close eye on where you leave your leftover tinsel, string, and ribbons. “Your cat may find these decorations irresistible because they look like easy-to-catch, sparkly, and wiggly prey,” Stamper said in the article. In fact, they can cause serious stomach and intestinal damage.
Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear, and include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and decreased activity.
If you have holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe around, take care. Poinsettias, for example, have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate your animal’s mouth and stomach and may cause vomiting and diarrhea.
“If your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, you can help them by picking up their food and water dishes for a couple of hours to let their stomach settle,” Stamper advises.
The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins and phoratoxins. These chemicals affect the heart, causing low blood pressure and slowed heart rate. While holly isn’t as harmful, you should still discourage your pets from eating the berries and leaves. In both dogs and cats, the plant’s toxins can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and decreased activity.
Resist the temptation to give your pet table scraps especially if they are high in fat. “In addition to the typical gastrointestinal problems, rich, fatty foods can cause a potentially life-threatening and painful disease called pancreatitis,” Stamper said. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, and weakness. In cats, the symptoms are less clear and harder to notice, such as decreased appetite and weight loss.
“Don’t forget, once dinner is done, dispose of the leftovers and bones somewhere where your pets can’t get to them,” Stamper added.
Other human treats, including alcohol
As many pet owners know, chocolate can be dangerous to your dog or cat. Chocolate toxicity depends on the type and amount of chocolate your pet has eaten, their body weight, and if they are extra-sensitive to the toxic compound in chocolate called theobromine.
After eating chocolate, some pets develop more severe complications, including liver failure, bleeding disorders, and death. Moreover, the seemingly harmless mints common in the holiday season cause life-threatening problems for your dog if they contain xylitol, also found in food items such as candy, gum, some peanut butters, and baked goods, and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.
Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat xylitol-containing items including vomiting and the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia). You many also notice decreased activity, weakness, staggering, loss of coordination and seizures. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate or xylitol-containing items, consider it an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.
Finally, there’s alcohol. Depending on how much your pet drinks, they can develop serious problems. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, weakness, decreased activity, difficulty breathing, and shaking. In severe cases, coma and death from respiratory failure can occur.
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