“Potential hazards for pets during the holidays and in the winter season include antifreeze, chocolate, decorative plants, bread dough, high-fat food and bones,” said Alisa Reniker, clinical assistant professor of small animal emergency and critical care. “It may take as little as a teaspoon of antifreeze to make a fatal dose for some animals. Many animals explore the world with their mouths and will put any foreign object in them, including ornaments and tinsel. This can lead to injury or intestinal obstruction if a foreign body is ingested.”
Problems that Reniker and Tony Mann, associate professor of veterinary medicine and surgery, typically see during these cold months include:
Antifreeze. Animals are more likely to drink it if they are dehydrated, but even a small amount can lead to kidney failure. In addition, its sweet taste doesn’t deter the animal from drinking it. If caught early, within the first few hours, veterinarians can administer an antidote and supportive therapy.
Ornament ingestion or electrocution. This is prevalent in young animals, such as puppies or kittens who are more apt to explore foreign objects by putting them in their mouths or chewing on objects such as electrical cords and tree lights.
Chocolate. While it takes a large amount of milk chocolate to make an animal sick, baking chocolate and dark chocolate are more dangerous. If you see your dog eating dark chocolate, induce vomiting and call your veterinarian immediately.
Plant ingestion. Many holiday plants are not fatally poisonous to animals, but poinsettias and holly can cause mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In cats, ingestion of lilies can cause kidney failure. The most common lily involved is Easter Lilies.
Bread Dough and Yeast. Dogs may eat bread dough meant for holiday treats. In the process of rising, the dough expands in the stomach and the yeast produces ethanol. This can lead to severe problems including alcohol poisoning and stomach distension and potential torsion. Pets should be seen by a veterinarian if they have eaten yeast, including uncooked bread dough.
High-fat meals and poultry bones. Prevent your dog’s access to these. High-fat meals can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal digestive disease caused by abnormal secretion of pancreatic enzymes. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Poultry bones can become lodged in the throat or digestive tract and can cause obstruction or death.