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Holiday foods and presents can be dangerous to pets

Karen Miller, DVM

Guest Columnist

Overindulgence is unhealthy for us humans, but can even be deadly for our pets. Fatty and bony table scraps can lead to severe gastrointestinal upset, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal blockage and even death. Make sure that trash is properly secured and put out of the reach of your pets.

Do not feed your pets chocolate, raisins, grapes or anything that contains xylitol (a common sweetener used in chewing gums and baked goods). Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine which can be toxic to pets resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, fast and abnormal heartbeats and even death. Bakers’ chocolate and dark chocolate are the most toxic. In a 10 pound dog, severe signs can occur if as little as a half-ounce of bakers’ chocolate or 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate is ingested.

The as-yet-to-be-identified toxin in raisins and grapes can cause acute kidney failure. This can happen if a 10-pound dog eats two ounces of raisins or 14 ounces of grapes.

Mistletoe, holly, Christmas rose and lilies are all toxic to pets. Death can even occur. Lilies — Stargazer, Tiger, Asian, Easter, and some day lilies —  can cause acute kidney failure and be fatal to cats. Ingestion of poinsettias often only causes irritation of the stomach and intestines with vomiting and diarrhea.

Tinsel, ribbon and string can be very dangerous if ingested by your pet. Cats seem to be particularly attracted to these objects. They can become wrapped around the base of the tongue or can cause an obstruction in the intestinal tract. The intestines can bunch up on themselves and the ribbon can cut through the intestinal wall, leading to death of the intestine, peritonitis and death. If your cat stops eating, is vomiting, lethargic or tries to defecate and can’t, you should call your veterinarian immediately. If you see a ribbon coming out of your cat’s or dog’s anus, do not pull on it, but take your pet to your vet.

Your dog may chew on or swallow toy parts or packaging that is lying around the house during the holidays. These objects can cause a foreign body obstruction in the stomach or intestinal tract because they are too large to pass. This can lead to severe illness and death. If your dog won’t eat, is vomiting (especially if the vomiting is becoming more frequent), is lethargic, can’t defecate or has abdominal pain when you touch her belly or pick her up, take her to your veterinarian. Do not wait. The delay may be the difference between life and death.

Some dogs and cats are shy or excitable around new people. If you feel that your pet will be overwhelmed by holiday visitors, put them in another room or their crate with a favorite toy.

Let’s keep our pets safe during the holidays. These tips may keep you from making a trip to the emergency clinic this holiday season. A healthy pet would be another thing to be thankful for.

Karen Miller, DVM is a veterinarian and owner of Lincolnton Animal Hospital.

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