When trimming the holiday tree be mindful of the tinsel. This thin plastic poses a severe risk to dogs and cats. If swallowed, tinsel poses a choking hazard. It can also get caught under the tongue or further down the GI tract and lead to an intestinal blockage, also known as a linear foreign body. When the tinsel gets hung, the normal movement of the intestines can cause them to bunch up over the tinsel. This leads to food not being able to pass through the intestines normally and the development of vomiting, diarrhea, and a very poor feeling pet. Tinsel is also very abrasive and if it gets stuck the movement of the intestines over the tinesel can lead to rippinng and holes developing in the intestines. This causes a severe infection in your pet’s abdomen and is an emergency situation.
If a pet ingests tinsel, surgery is often necessary to remove the tinsel from the GI tract and to repair any damage that may have been caused to the intestines or the stomach. This means hopitalization and in some cases, 24 hour care. If your pet does not develop a blockage due to the tinsel, they can still have vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite that needs to be treated.
Poinsettias are beautiful additions to your holiday decor. However, they can be harmful to your pets. Cats seem to be most affected since they seem to take the most enjoyment in eating houseplants. The sap from the leaves and stems of the poinsettia plant can be toxic, and act as a GI irritant. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in some cases ulceration of the insidde of the mouth. Treatment for ingestion includes supportive care of the GI upset and possibly IV fluids.
The holidays mean lights, decorations, and the dreaded chore of leaf and snow blowing outside. All of these things can involve extra electrical cords and extension cords being placed around the house. Electric cords pose an electrocution risk to animals, especially young puppies that are teething and like to put everything in their mouths. If a pet bites into an electric cord, they can have at the very least electrical burns inside the mouth, tongue and face. The electricity can also cause lung damage, respiratory distress and even death. If your pet has bitten into an electric cord, please seek emergency veterinary attention.
With all of the children’s toys, electronics, and animated decorations, there are always an abundance of batteries around the house during the holiday season. Batteries contain a corrosive substance (an acid). If the battery casing is bit into, this acid can cause ulcerations and damage to the mouth, stomach and intestines. If the batteries are ingested whole, they can cause intestinal blockage if large enough. The normal acids in the stomach can also cause the battery casing to leak its contents after being swallowed causing ulceration and GI damage. If your pet bites into a battery or swallows a battery, seek veterinary care as soon as you can. Battery acid is very corrosive, so if your pet does ingest a battery or battery contents, do not induce vomiting, as these substances can cause as much damage coming back up as they do going down.
Chocolate and other foods like coffee that contain caffeine can be extremely dangerous to dogs and cats. These products contain a toxin called methylxanthine and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, hyperactivity and muscle tremors. These toxins can also affect the heart and cause abnormal heart rhythms, seizures and even death.
Treatment involves minimizing further absorption (induced vomiting, activated charcoal, etc), suppportive care with IV fluids and medication to control any vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythms or seizures. If the dose ingested was high enough, 24 hour care and hospitalization for several days may be necessary. Even if your pet does not ingest the “toxic dose” the chocolate can irritate their GI tract and cause gastrointestinal upset and can lead to a more severe condition called pancreatitis.
Pets and Holiday Parties
Pets can get nervous around new people or loud situations. Holiday guests, children they are not used to, or noise makers on New Year’s may frighten or agitate animals. This anxiety can cause them to be more attention seeking, more prone to barking or growling, or even increase the chances of them biting. Find a quiet room away from the party and guests to keep your pets. Talk to your veterinarian about possible short term anxiety medication options if needed.
Also be mindful of the doors, windows, and garages. Pets can easily slip out through an open door as people come and go, especially if they are scared or anxious. Keep an eye on your pets and make sure that they are wearing a current identification tag or are microchipped.