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Sunridge Veterinary Clinic

Pet Safe Holidays

Well its that time of year! Our summer flowers have gone to sleep, the trees have lost their leaves, and the weather man is threatening us with that dreaded 'S' word . Time to start looking forward the only joys of the season: The holidays!!

We all love the holidays. We especially love the food and decorations that go along with them. We also love to spoil our pets and include them in the fun and festivities. Unfortunately this time of year can be a hazardous one for our furry family members. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, their emergency call volume increases by over 20 percent the week surrounding Halloween and then again in the weeks surrounding Christmas.

Some of the things we love most about the holidays can be extremely unhealthy and possibly even life threatening to our pets. The best way to keep our pets safe is to be cognizant of the possible dangers. The following are some of the most common hazards our pets may encounter this time of year. If your pet is affected by any of the following, contact your Veterinary clinic immediately.


Of all the foods that are hazardous to our pets, chocolate is definitely the most common and significant threat we see. Who isn't attracted to the sweet, creamy smell of chocolate? Dogs are no exception. While us humans can eat large quantities of the stuff with no ill affects except for an expansion to our waist line, dogs are a much different story. Chocolate is derived from the roasted seeds of Theobroma cacao which contains the chemicals theobromide and caffeine. These chemicals can be toxic to dogs if ingested, causing a number of medical complications that could result in death. The darker the chocolate higher the levels of these chemicals. Therefore, dark chocolate and bakers chocolate are much more toxic then milk and white chocolate. Signs and symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity include: Vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, muscle rigidity, rapid breathing, seizures, weakness, cardiac failure and coma. Although chocolate poisoning is much more common in dogs it can be seen in felines as well. Chocolate poses the same risks to cats but is seen much less as cats are not as likely to ingest it. 


Nothing says Christmas like fruitcake. Nobody likes it, and nobody eats it... except of course the dog if he gets the chance. Fruitcake poses a number of risks. Most fruitcake contains raisons, dates, uncooked yeast and alcohol. Raisons( grapes) and dates contain a toxin that can be extremely harmful to some dogs. Nobody is sure what exactly the toxin is or why if affects only some dogs but it can cause serious kidney damage. Since there is no way of telling which dogs will be affected, so it is best to not take a chance. Signs of kidney failure include: Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, foul smelling breath, lethargy. Alcohol is hazardous to dogs and cats, causing both metabolic and neurologic problems. Signs of Alcohol poisoning include: Disorientation, vomiting, difficulty breathing, coma and death. Uncooked yeast can cause a dangerous buildup of gas within your pets stomach causing gastric bloat which is a serious condition that can lead to an emergency surgery and possibly death.

Ornaments and Tinsel:

Anyone who has ever had a young cat has I'm sure experienced the 'cat in the Christmas tree'. Cats are drawn to Christmas trees for obvious reasons. I'm sure most cats are thrilled when they discover the Christmas tree for the first time. Imagine what they are thinking! "My humans finally understand me!" A tree inside the house, fully equipped with fun, shiny prey to hunt, kill then eat!! What more could a cat ask for? Unfortunately their new found toy can hold many hazards. Ornaments are a risk for both dogs and cats. Once off the tree, broken and ingested they can cause irritation, bleeding, intestinal obstruction, and perforation of the intestinal tract. Tinsel is especially attractive to cats. It's shiny, dangly and few cats can resist it. Once ingested, tinsel can become wrapped around their tongues then swallowed causing a Linear Foreign Body. What happens in this scenario, is the portion of the tinsel that is swallowed becomes entangled at some point along the digestive tract. This causes the intestines to bunch up in a telescopic manner. The intestines can also become perforated, causing peritonitis. This is a very serious condition requiring immediate surgical intervention. Signs of a foreign body include: Vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, pain (panting, inability to get comfortable, vocalizing). Wrapping bows and ribbon pose the same threat as tinsel. Tree Lights can cause electrocution and burns if chewed.

Seasonal Plants:

Bright, ornamental plants are a great way to get the house dressed up for the season. Pet owners need to be aware that many of these plants can be toxic to their pets. Being naturally curious, puppies and kittens are the most at risk. Before selecting plants as d├ęcor, it is best to do some research to check their level of toxicity. The most common plants that pose a risk are Mistletoe, Holly and Poinsettia. Poinsettia: Many people think that the Poinsettia is extremely toxic, this however is untrue. The poinsettia is considered to be mildly toxic and can cause irritation to skin and mucus membranes. Most common symptoms are nausea, itchiness and generalized irritation. Mistletoe and Holly: These are considered to be moderately to severely toxic. Ingestion of small quantities can cause gastrointestinal irritation (drooling, vomiting, diarrhea). Ingesting large quantities can be life threatening with symptoms ranging from ataxia, abnormal heart rates, seizures and death. To be safe, stick to the plastic or silk alternatives. Fir trees: Fir tree oils, though considered only mildly toxic, can be irritating to the mucus membranes and stomach causing drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Lilies: Many types of lilies are moderately to severely toxic while others cause only mild irritation. The severely toxic varieties can cause acute kidney failure while the mildly toxic types will cause only minor irritation. To learn the toxicity levels of the different types of lilies, go to the Pet Poison Helpline website

House Guests:

Grandma and Grandpa may look perfectly harmless, but did you know that even the sweetest of house guests may bring hazards into your home that could unknowingly put your pets at risk. Every person that enters your home typically brings with them at least one item that could pose a health and safety risk to your pet. Here are some of the most common items your pet may be exposed to: Gum and mints may contain xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many sugarless gum brands, breath mints and smoking cessation products (nicoderm). Xylitol is harmful to dogs and if ingested can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels. If ingested in large amounts it can cause severe liver damage. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, weakness, muscle tremors, seizuring and collapse. Cigarettes and chewing tobacco contain nicotine which even is small amount is extremely toxic to pets. Make sure if you have guests who indulge in these disgusting habits that they dispose of all cigarette butts and chewed tobacco well away from where a pet may find it. Signs of nicotine toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, drooling, constricted pupils, seizuring and collapse. Prescribed and Illicit drugs are all harmful to pets. Common prescriptions such as heart medication, antidepressants, sleeping pills are all very dangerous to pets as well as illicit drugs such as marijuana. They can pose a variety of risks anything from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe kidney and liver damage, heart problems, seizures and death.

Aside from cancelling all holiday celebrations and barring any visitors from your home, what can you do to keep your pets safe this holiday season? Here are some simple suggestions to make sure everybody has a very happy holiday including the family pets.

            * Make sure house guests keep their bedroom and bathroom doors closed at all time. Advise them of your curious pets to make them aware of the risks as well. Most guests will be compliant as they don't want to be responsible for ruining Christmas.

             * Be careful of what you leave under the tree. Pets have an acute sense of smell and can smell any baked goods or chocolate through wrapping paper.

             * Be careful of what you decorate your house with. Put yourself in your pets paws and if you think they may find something irresistible then you are probably wise to exclude. Check with poison control before buying any seasonal plants or just stick with the plastic alternative. 

              * Keep pets away from any food preparation and clean up areas. Use only garbage's with secure lids.            

Should the worst happen, and your pet gets into one of the above hazards then call your Veterinary clinic immediately. Also keep this link handy