By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Another holiday brings more special concerns for our pets. To humans, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree is the focal point of holiday festivities. To pets, it contains many attractive risks. Glass ornaments can be a fun toy but if broken may cause mouth or body lacerations. If ingested, severe injury to the digestive system may ensue. The old fashioned bubble lights contain a liquid that could be toxic if ingested as well.
Dangling tinsel is alluring to cats. Once an end enters the mouth, the backward pointing papillae on the tongue make it impossible to spit out. The cat then swallows the linear foreign body, possibly requiring surgery to remove.
Electric light cords can also be attractive to chew on, resulting in mouth burns or electric shock syndrome. Ornaments and lights should be placed high on the tree to decrease accessibility to pets, mostly curious puppies and kittens.
Many homes will be filled with the wonderful smells of Christmas from candles or liquid potpourris. Just a few licks of this hot liquid can result in severe burns to the tongue or mouth. Dogs are not beyond poor choices in objects to be swallowed, so flavored candles present a tasty option. Unfortunately, they do not digest and could potentially cause gastrointestinal blockage and a trip into surgery.
Poinsettias get a bad rap in being on the poisonous plant list. They are only mildly toxic to pets but can cause significant mouth irritation. Some of the other seasonal plants like holly and mistletoe may be of greater toxic risk, especially to cats. Call your veterinarian if these plants are known to have been eaten and symptoms of gastrointestinal distress are present.
Seasonal foods may be of special concern for pets. We have all heard about chocolate toxicity, but in many cases of these cases it is milk chocolate and not the concentrated bakers’ chocolate. Most of the symptoms here may be from the sugar or dairy content and not the chocolate itself. In some cases where large volumes of milk chocolate are consumed by little dogs, there may be stimulant effects on the heart that may require medical intervention.
Use extreme caution also with grapes or raisins as these can compromise kidney function in dogs. Sugarless gum contains xylitol, a sugar substitute that can cause life-threatening illness in dogs if enough is ingested.
The No. 1 reason for Christmas diarrhea in pets in food change. Company may give excessive amounts of treats or foods not suitable to a stable gastrointestinal bacterial population. People food for our pets’ special holiday meal may induce diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems. There are safer Christmas alternatives for our pets.
If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or an emergency center. The phone number for the Pet Poison Helpline is 800-213-6680, or you can visit petpoisonhelpline.com.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.