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Posted on 12-21-2013

We all love the holiday season for making memories and enjoying all of the delicious treats and beautiful decorations. Our pets, especially our dogs and cats, love the holiday season as well. They love sharing those amazing treats and playing with those intricate decorations. Unfortunately, a lot of these tasty foods, drinks and decor can quickly manifest into emergency situations. Below are some great tips for keeping your holiday cheerful and your pets safe and healthy.

Seasonal plants are a relatively safe decoration with some notable precautions. Poinsettias have a milky white sap that when ingested, will cause a contact sensitivity, meaning drooling and vomiting as well as itching at the point of contact. Luckily, these signs will resolve once ingestion ceases. The Christmas cactus can cause some gastrointestinal irritation as well as the spiky leaves from the English Holly and Mistletoe. It is very unlikely for these to cause dangerous complications but keeping them out of your pet's reach is still recommended. Japanese Yew, which is commonly used in Christmas wreaths and garlands, is highly toxic and if ingested, seek immediate medical attention.

Holiday foods, as delicious as they may be, can be quite dangerous for our pets. The most common culprits are chocolate, macadamia nuts, alcohol, table salt, grapes/raisins, xylitol (sugar-free substitute) and caffeine. Dark, baking chocolate and cocoa are the dangerous offenders in the chocolate family and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and even death when eaten in high quantities. Macadamia nuts are the only toxic nut but can be found in holiday cookies and in plenty of nut mixes on your cocktail table. Ingestion can cause weakness, lethargy, vomiting and tremors. Alcohol can be found in rum or brandy soaked desserts, fermenting garbage with fruits and even unbaked yeast bread dough. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed, so onset of clinical signs will be immediate and you can see lethargy, seizures and breathing trouble. Table salt, which can also be found in high concentrations in homemade ornaments, can cause severe neurologic impairment, not eating and vomiting. If you think your pet has ingested any of these items, please contact us at Eagle Animal Hospital and seek treatment.

Holiday decor such as liquid potpourri, tinsel and ribbon, oxygen absorber packets and batteries are some more dangerous offenders for our beloved best friends. Liquid potpourri and tinsel should never be kept in homes with cats. The liquid potpourri can cause mouth ulcers and irritation similar to a chemical burn, trouble breathing, neurologic impairments and potential liver disease. Tinsel is an extremely shiny and fun toy for a cat to play with but once ingested, can become caught around the base of the tongue and then obstructed throughout several portions of the windy intestines, sometimes cutting through the intestinal tissue and thus requiring emergency surgery. Oxygen absorbers, those little packets found in food packaging, contain iron, potentially causing iron toxicity and can be magnetic. Please note that silica gel packets commonly found in new shoe boxes and pill bottles are non-toxic. Lastly, batteries can cause corrosive injury if ingested.

Also, make sure your guest's purses and bags are placed in an inaccessible place to your pet. Many inquisitive dogs and cats will find joy in investigating the contents. The most dangerous items are medication bottles containing Tylenol and ibuprofen, sugarless gum containing xylitol, cigarettes, small change and asthma inhalers.

Remember these tips for an enjoyable and safe holiday for you and your pet! If you have any questions or concerns about potential ingestion please contact our team at Eagle Animal Hospital or after hours, the Pet Poison Hotline 1(800)213-6680 or www.petpoisonhelpline.com.

We would like to extend an extremely heartfelt wish of health and happiness throughout this holiday season to all of our friends, family, clients and team members. So deck the halls, be merry and safe! We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.

Written by Jennifer Granite, VMD

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