Monday, 28 December 2015
As the holidays approach, decorations come out of storage and guests tend to gather. But before holiday planning and festivities go full tilt, take a moment to assess any hidden health hazards your home or guests may present to your pets.
While you may know that certain foods, like grapes, are bad for your dog, your guests may not. Although pet-proofing your home may sound extreme, it may just prevent an emergency visit to the veterinarian.
Here’s what you need to watch for:
With so much food around at holiday time, pets can easily and unexpectedly help themselves to people treats. Dogs are masters at finding unattended plates and trash cans, while cats can easily jump onto countertops and tables. And guests may even lend a helping hand by giving your pet a much-welcomed treat. Unfortunately, as much as your dog or cat may enjoy the snack, a number of food items are not meant for canine or feline consumption. Here are five foods you should make sure your pet always avoids:
1. Chocolates. Chocolate products contain methylxanthines, which include caffeine and theobromine. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, your cat or dog may be at risk for serious complications. Baker’s, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate, as well as cocoa powder, all contain large amounts of methylxanthines — making them toxic even in small amounts. Vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects of eating chocolate. More serious effects include anxiousness, hyperactivity, stumbling, tremors, abnormal heart rhythms, and seizures. In most cases, if the pet is treated early, the prognosis is generally good.
2. Xylitol. Sugar-free items containing the artificial sweetener xylitolcan be deadly to dogs. Ingestion causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar, which can result in vomiting, lethargy, weakness, collapse, or seizures. Signs appear as quickly as 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion but may be delayed for up to 12 hours. In some dogs, liver failure can occur up to 72 hours after ingesting xylitol.
3. Fat Trimmings and Bones. Although it’s tempting to feed your pet fatty leftovers or bones, it’s best to avoid doing so. Possible consequences are serious and include inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), broken teeth, severe vomiting, diarrhea, or a blockage of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines — which would require emergency surgery.
4. Grapes and Raisins. Although we don’t know why it happens, eating grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. It’s not clear how much a dog must consume in order for these fruits to be dangerous, so it’s best to keep them far out of your pet’s reach — and and to inform guests of their potential danger. Signs that your dog may have eaten grapes or raisins include vomiting, followed by lethargy, loss of appetite, and increased thirst and urination.
5. Alcohol. Dogs and cats are very sensitive to alcohol; even small amounts can cause coma and death. Signs usually appear within 15 to 30 minutes and may include an unsteady gait, vomiting, and lethargy.
6. Tinsel, ornaments, and ribbon. Cats are especially attracted to, and will want to play with, dangling or sparkly ornaments. Keep your pets away from ornaments, as broken glass from ornaments can cause cuts, and eating ornaments, tinsel, or hooks can cause serious intestinal injury.
7. Plants that are toxic, like lilies. Poinsettias get the most attention as potentially poisonous holiday plants, but their toxicity is overrated. Eating them will not risk your cat or dog’s life, but ingesting the plant can cause mouth irritation and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause heart problems, but eating it usually only causes gastrointestinal symptoms. The same goes for holly.
If you’re a cat owner, lilies are the one plant you must worry about, because eating them can cause kidney failure. If you spot lilies in an arrangement, get them out of your home immediately and clean up any pollen — every part of the plant is toxic!
Another overlooked danger is Christmas tree water, which can contain fertilizer as well as bacteria.
8. Cords and candles. Pets often want to chew on electrical cords and lights, which can cause electrocution, so cover or hide all cords. And hide candles as well, because a dog or cat can knock them over and cause burns or a house fire.