Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. And while that means family, food and festivities for us humans, it could mean increased risk of injury or illness for our pets.
“Many of our winter holiday traditions can pose a threat to our companion animals,” says Tina Wismer, D.V.M., senior director of veterinary outreach and education for the ASPCA. The most frequent offender? Chocolate, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate and occasionally seizures, Wismer says.
“Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are more damaging to pets, but it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep all chocolate out of reach,” she says. Pet owners should also be wary of sweeteners, such as xylitol, which cause a sudden drop in blood glucose.
Another food to watch out for is turkey, a favorite treat for both cats and dogs. It contains bones that can splinter and cause blockages in the throat or digestive tract, in addition to causing stomach upset from grease and fat. Wismer also urges pet owners to be extremely careful with any alcoholic beverages.
“Pets that ingest alcohol can become very sick and may fall into a coma, leading to an untimely death,” she adds.
Wismer advises owners to head to the vet immediately if their dog experiences excessive vomiting, or if there is any sign of blood in the vomit. She says mild stomach upset — a couple episodes of vomiting — can be treated at home by removing access to food and water for 30 to 60 minutes.
Owners also need to protect pets against seemingly innocuous decorations throughout the holiday season. Ribbons, tinsel, glass ornaments, as well as wires, cords, candles and even Christmas tree water can all pose potential danger to pets.
Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received 8,000 calls about potentially poisonous plants and flowers. “Flowers such as lilies, which are commonly used this time of year, can cause kidney failure in cats,” Wismer says. “The more traditional festive plants, such as holly and mistletoe can also be dangerous for cats and dogs alike, causing gastrointestinal upset or, in rare cases with mistletoe, cardiovascular problems. It’s best to use non-toxic decorations, such as wood, fabric or even pinecones.”
And what about the popular poinsettia? A persistent holiday myth insists that the poinsettia plant is toxic to pets. In reality, poinsettias cause only mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation. Keeping it out of pets’ reach is still a good idea, but there’s no need to banish it altogether.
If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance this holiday season, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 for immediate assistance. There is a $65 consultation fee. For more information, visit www.aspca.org or www.facebook.com/aspcateam