The holiday season poses many perils for pets. From pet treats to holiday decorations, hidden dangers lurk. Most of these hazards are present year-round, so it pays to be familiar with them both to know the warning signs of potential poisoning and other problems and to ensure your pet's safety.
Distress symptoms vary, but often include drooling, vomiting and lethargy. And any change in your pet's normal behavior deserves close attention.
Xylitol causes a large, rapid release of insulin in dogs. After xylitol poisoning, vomiting is usually the first symptom. Other symptoms may include decreased activity, weakness, staggering, lack of coordination, collapse, and seizures.
Cocktail parties and buffets pose dangerous opportunities for pets.
If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate or xylitol-containing items, consider it an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.
While xylitol is also toxic to cats, veterinarians report very few cases of xylitol-poisoned cats. The suspicion is that cats are finickier eaters than dogs and rarely eat xylitol-containing products.
Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear and can include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and decreased activity.
You can guard against this by being sure to pick up any leftover ribbon and string after wrapping and unwrapping presents. And if you have cats, it may be wisest simply to skip the tinsel on the tree.
Symptoms may not show up immediately. They can include vomiting and diarrhea, lowered activity, not wanting to eat, and obvious stomach pain. In the most severe cases, a hole can form at the blockage site and cause a life-threatening infection.
When in doubt, contact your veterinarian. X-rays or other procedures may be necessary to locate and fix the problem.
Mistletoe contains toxic chemicals that can slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure. Fortunately, pets have to eat a lot of mistletoe before they're in danger. Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing and odd behavior. Holly is not as harmful as mistletoe, but both the berries and leaves contain toxins that can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and decreased activity.
Poinsettias are also toxic. They have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate a cat or dog's mouth and stomach and may cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Reading all this, you may wonder how your pet ever survived the holiday season before. Most pets make it through just fine. But there are dangers unique to this time of year. Your pet won't be on the lookout for them, so it's up to you to do so.
For more details, see the Food and Drug Administration's consumer update on holiday hazards to pets.