Dietary Indiscretions: The holiday season brings lots of good food, sweet treats and presents for all. However, these same goodies can be hazardous to your pets!

Dogs love chocolate and other toxic foods such as grapes and raisins. Dark Baker’s Chocolate is the most toxic. It contains the toxins Caffeine and Theobromine. Milk Chocolatecontains a smaller amount of the toxins but, with a large enough dose, it too can cause illness. Both types of chocolate cause clinical signs associated with stimulation of the Central Nervous System – Brain and Spinal Cord. Clinical signs usually occur within one to two hours after ingestion. Initially a dog will exhibit restless, hyperactivity, abnormal behavior and vomiting may also occur. As the intoxication progresses, panting, rapid heart rate, weakness, difficulty walking, muscle tremors and convulsions can occur.

In addition to primary intoxication of the central nervous system, chocolate ingestion can cause vomiting and diarrhea related to the large amount of fat and sugar presented to the stomach and small intestine. In some cases, pancreatitis can occur. For the dog that has ingested chocolate, seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. Treatment consists of inducting vomiting to evacuate the stomach and administration of Toxiban (activated charcoal) to prevent toxin absorption. If severe clinical signs are present, the dog is admitted to the hospital for supportive care: IV fluids and medicines to sedate the patient. Close cardiac monitoring is also important.

Grapes and Raisins are common foods at holiday parties. As dogs wander among guests, they will find their way to the snack table and, if able, chow down on all those goodies! Both grapes and raisins affect the kidneys and can cause acute kidney failure in both dogs and cats. If grape or raisin ingestion is known or even suspected, seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. As with chocolate ingestion, the patient is made to vomit and Toxiban is administered. In some cases, in hospital supportive care is needed. This includes administration of IV fluids for kidney support and measurement and tracking of kidney values while in the hospital.

Poinsettia, Holly and Mistletoe plants are toxic to pets. Mistletoe is not reported to be a common toxin to dogs and cats but, if berries are ingested, stomach and intestinal upset may occur. Holly berries contain a toxin (ilicin) that is a potent gastrointestinal irritant. The most common problem after ingestion is digestive tract upset, vomiting and/or diarrhea. There is no antidote. Treatment is supportive care: IV fluids, nausea medicines and gastrointestinal protective medicines. Poinsettia ingestion and intoxication is rare. Clinical signs after ingestion are usually digestive upset. Treatment is strictly supportive care.

Macadamia Nuts are a popular snack food and are commonly incorporated into cookies, cakes and candies. These nuts are toxic to dogs. The actual toxin in the nut has not been identified. Clinical signs are weakness, depression, vomiting, difficulty walking, tremors, and fever. No fatalities from nut ingestion have been reported. Treatment of clinical signs is supportive care.

Go easy on the table food for dogs during the holiday season (or during any season for that matter!) Red meat, pork, spicy foods, high starch foods and fatty foods can upset the digestive tract and require in hospital therapy to get your furry family member through a vomiting as diarrhea crisis.

Cats and Ribbons, Strings and Electric Cords

 Cats love to play with gift wrapping ribbons and strings. Once a ribbon is in the mouth, it may get so far back in the oral cavity that the cat will have no choice but to swallow it. Once in the stomach, the ribbon can migrate down the small intestine. As the small intestine tries to move the string, it can cause the small intestine to accordion on itself. This leads to a functional obstruction. Initial clinical signs include vomiting and loss of appetite. You may notice a ribbon or string wrapped under the tongue or the same protruding from the anus. If gentle pressure on the ribbon or string protruding from the anus does not slip it out, DO NOT TUG OR PULL ON STRING! This can cause severe damage to the intestines. Leave the string alone and seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. Diagnosis of a sting or linear foreign body is made through clinical signs (presence of the ribbon or string) and/or radiographs and abdominal ultrasound. Therapy is major abdominal surgery to remove the string.

Therefore, keep wrapping ribbons and string away from your cat. If you notice your cat playing with ribbon or string, take it away immediately!

The pretty Christmas balls and tinsel hanging from the tree is an inviting play place for dogs and cats. Glass ornaments, when knocked off the tree, will shatter and can be the cause of a paw laceration. Tinsel can also form a linear foreign body in the intestine. Keep the electric cord for the tree lights out of your pet’s reach. Kitty or Canine will sometimes chew on an electric cord. This will cause a serious burn in the mouth and can potentially cause sudden swelling of the lungs that can be a life threatening disease.

T’is the Season to be Careful

 As children tear through their presents and ribbons are scattered on the floor, be aware of what kitty is doing. Keep those delicious toxins out of reach of your dog. If kitty or canine is a chewer, get the electric cord off the floor and suspended high enough to be out of reach. Keep those toxic plants out of the house if kitty is prone to chew plants. Use plastic ornaments on the lower branches of the tree. Go easy on the table treats.

As always, if you suspect a four leg family member is sick during this holiday season, seek veterinary care as quickly as possible.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!