Last year the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) Animal Poison Control Center dealt with 17,000 cases of pet illness which was caused by ingesting human foods. Of these, chocolate is by far the worst offender, with dark chocolate being the most damaging to pets. Chocolate contains the alkaloid theobromine which is toxic to dogs, and leads to symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate and occasionally seizures. Pet owners should also be wary of sweeteners, such as xylitol, which is present in an increasing number of confectionary products. Xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood glucose and there appears to be a strong link between xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs.
While decorating the family home is an essential part of the holidays, many of the items we incorporate into our traditional holiday decorations each year – ribbons, tinsel, glass ornaments, as well as wires, cords, candles, and even Christmas tree water – can all pose potential dangers to pets if left unattended. And the ASPCA warns that plants and flowers should be kept to a minimum. Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received 8,000 calls about potentially poisonous plants and flowers. "Flowers such as lilies, which are commonly used this time of year, can cause kidney failure in cats. The more traditional festive plants such as holly and mistletoe can also be dangerous for cats and dogs alike, causing gastrointestinal upset or, in rare cases with mistletoe, cardiovascular problems. It’s best to use non-toxic decorations, such as wood, fabric or even pinecones," said Dr. Wismer, Senior Director of Veterinary Outreach and Education for the ASPCA.
Giving your dog or cat a little turkey may seem like a good idea, but Dr. Wismer warns that the meat may contain bones that can splinter and cause blockages in the throat or digestive tract, and that the grease and fat can cause stomach upset. Additionally, Dr. Wismer strongly urges pet owners to be extremely careful with any alcoholic beverages. "Pets that ingest alcohol can become very sick and may fall into a coma, leading to an untimely death," she adds. If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance this holiday season, the ASPCA recommends that you contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.