‘Tis the season! The halls are decked, stockings are hung, tree is decorated. It’s time to relax and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the season! But the holidays can be toxic to our pets!
Before you get too comfortable, don’t forget that your pets are enjoying the sights, smells and sounds, as well. The lovely new plant you sat in the corner? Mmmmm! Smells YUMMY!! And thank you for the lovely tree sitting in that big bowl of water!!! How convenient when I’m thirsty! There are SO many additional dangers for our pets during this season. The following list is by no means conclusive, but I wanted to be sure to put out a gentle reminder of how quickly the joy of the season can turn tragic for our pets if we aren’t careful!
~ Amaryllis: The Amaryllis contains Lycorine and other noxious substances. These cause increased salivation, gastrointestinal abnormalities (vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain), lethargy, and tremors in both cats and dogs. The bulb of the plant is reported to be more toxic than the flowers and stalk. Other names include: Belladonna or Saint Joseph Lily, Cape Belladonna, and Naked Lady.
~ Christmas Cactus: No direct toxic effects. However if the Christmas Cactus is consumed, the fibrous plant material causes irritation to the stomach and intestine, potentially leading to vomiting or diarrhea.
~ Holly: Whether your pet consumes the leaves or berries, Holly’s toxicity lies in saponins. These are soap-like chemicals known as glycosides. In dogs and cats, consumption of Holly can cause gastrointestinal signs (decreased appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea) and lethargy.
~ Pine trees/wreaths: Ingestion of pine needles can cause gastrointestinal signs and lethargy. Even more potentially toxic is the water which nourishes your tree. The standing water can harbor bacteria, molds, or other agents (fertilizers) that can cause your pet to become extremely sick with only a few sips.
~ Mistletoe: Mistletoe contains multiple substances toxic to both dogs and cats. Included are oxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin (Lectins, Phoratoxins). Consumption of mistletoe berries or leaves can cause severe gastrointestinal, cardiovascular (low blood pressure, low heart rate), and neurologic signs (collapse, unusual behavior).
~ Poinsettia: Toxicology studies do not confirm popular lore of the poinsettia’s exceedingly harmful effects. It is still best that your pet does not eat any part of the plant. The poinsettia contains a latex-like sap that can cause local irritation to the mouth and vomiting.
~ Lillies and Daffodils: These plants are very toxic for cats, and sometimes with severe symptoms of gastrointestinal signs, cardiac arrhythmias, kidney failure, convulsions and death. Daffodils are toxic to both dogs and cats, especially the bulbs.
~ Ivy: English ivy contains a component called Triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin). Triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin) can make dogs, cats and horses sick. English ivy leaves are more toxic than the berries. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, drooling and vomiting. Other names include: Branching, California, glacier, needlepoint and sweetheart.
~ Chocolate: Chocolate toxicity is well documented in dogs. The toxic effects vary based on the size of your dog and the concentraton of theobromine in the chocolate. Dark or Baker’s chocolate contains high levels which even in small quantities to small dogs can prove to be fatal.
~ Grapes and Raisins: Raisins & grapes in large quantities have recently been associated with rapid renal failure in certain dogs. Though documented in several cases results have not been able to be recreated in laboratory settings. However, because of the speed & severity of the condition it is best to avoid them.
~ Cooked Turkey and Chicken Bones: Cooked bones can cause lacerations or obstructions in the digestive track. They are brittle and break into sharp edges. When passing through the digestive tract they can cut the lining along the way. Raw bones however don’t pose that type of problem because they are pliable and softer.
~ Bubbling Lights: Moderate to lethal toxicity, depending on the amount of fluid (methylene chloride) inhaled or ingested.
~ Ribbon: Ribbons & strings can cause intestinal obstructions.
~ Christmas Tree Preservative: Low toxicity, depending upon formulation and quantity ingested. Although it is common to use aspirin as preservative which is toxic to cats but not dogs.
~ Snow Spray: Low toxicity, dry particles are inert. However, toxicity from inhalation can occur if sprayed directly in mouth.
~ Ornaments: Usually non-toxic, but risk of obstruction or intestinal lacerations can occur if ingested.
~ Button Batteries: Caustic, potentially high toxicity depending upon the position of the battery in gastrointestinal tract.
~ Alcoholic Beverages, After Shave, Perfume, Cologne. Ethanol in various concentrations is moderately toxic depending upon the amount ingested. The high concentrations of essential oils in true perfumes are especially toxic.
~ Toys: Like children, avoid toys with parts small enough to be chewed off and swallowed or toys painted with toxic materials.
Obviously, the list is long and varied!
Hopefully this list will help you “baby-proof” your home for the holidays and help to ensure a safe and happy season for ALL of the members of your family!