As the holidays are fast approaching we need to be aware of some of the dangers that can affect our pets. The following article is from the Pet Poison Helpline and we thought it would be important to share.
Tinsel: Few cats can resist the lure of shiny strings! During the holidays, ribbon, string, yarn and tinsel pose a significant threat to our feline patients (and less commonly, our canine patients). While these stringy delicacies aren’t poisonous, a dangerous linear foreign body can result if they are ingested. A linear foreign body occurs when a cat swallows something stringy which wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors itself in the stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. Due to normal peristalsis, the linear foreign body can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in an intestinal perforation and potential sepsis. The anchored string should not be cut prior to surgery, as it can unwind the loops of intestine, making it harder to find the multiple perforations that may be present.
Liquid Potpourri: Some people may enjoy using liquid potpourri simmer pots to fill their homes with the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg or pine for the holidays. While this may be pleasant for the people of the home, exposure of this liquid to pets can cause serious harm, especially to cats. The liquid potpourri formulation used in simmer pots typically contains a mixture of cationic detergents and essential oils (even if these are not listed on the product label). Following oral, dermal or ocular exposure, catatonic detergents can result in serious chemical burns/ulcerations, tissue necrosis, severe inflammation/fever and dyspnea (from shock or aspiration). Essential oils are well absorbed across the oral or GI mucosa and may result in tissue irritation, central nervous system depression, dermal hypersensitivity and, rarely hepatotoxicity (cats.) Compared to dogs, cats are more sensitive to the essential oils in liquid potpourri due to their relatively poor ability to glucuronidate these compounds.
Poinsettia: These iconic and infamous holiday plant accounts for the vast majority of plant calls to Pet Poison Helpline during the holidays. Although they have a bad reputation, the relative toxicity of poinsettia plants has been exaggerated. The most problematic components of the plant are saponin-based irritants found in the milky white sap. As the plant is chewed and sap ingested, mild and self-limiting oral/dermal irritation, salivation, vomiting and diarrhea may result. The majority of cases can be managed at home.
Mistletoe: The common name of mistletoe can be misleading as there are many varieties of this plant grown worldwide. The variety under which couples stop to kiss is the American Christmas mistletoe. Like the poinsettia, this plant gets a bad rap. Rumors of its toxic nature are largely attributed to its cousin, European mistletoe. Although ingestion of American mistletoe leaves, berries or extracts may cause mild stomach upset, serious or life-threatening poisoning is extremely rare and not expected following most exposures in pets.
Holly: Prized for its evergreen color and bright red berries, the Christmas or English holly joins its holiday brethren as another overrated toxic plant. The problem caused by holly ingestion are two fold. First, the spiny and leathery leaves can result in mechanical damage and, potentially, a foreign body obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. Second, the leaves and berries contain saponins, chemicals that have a detergent-like effect on tissue and result in gastrointestinal irritation. Most holly ingestions can be managed at home.
Yew: Recently, florists have started to use the vibrant evergreen and common landscaping shrub, Japanese yew, to make holiday wreaths. This plant, dubbed the ‘tree of death” contains potent cardiotoxins-taxine A and B which directly antagonize (block) the calcium and sodium ion channels in the myocardium. This results in bradycardia, reduced contractility, non-specific dysrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation, arteriole vasodilation, hypotension, severe gastroenteritis, and death. The minimum lethal dose in dogs is 2.3 grams/leaves/kg body weight. Horses and livestock are also at risk for poisoning which most often occurs when yew wreaths are used to decorate stables or when trimming or discarded wreaths are thrown into pastures or dry lots.
Alcohol: While pets can certainly e poisoned by scavenging unattended holiday cocktails, there are also some unusual sources of alcohol such as raw yeast bread dough, rum or brandy soaked fruit cakes, and fermenting garbage/fruits. When raw yeast bread dough is ingested, the yeast ferments sugars to carbon dioxide and alcohol, resulting in alcohol poisoning. The signs of alcohol intoxication in pets include severe hypoglycemia, hypothermia, respiratory depression, and hypotension. Additionally, the ingested dough expands in the war, moist environment of the stomach (acts as an oven) which can result in gastric dilation and potentially a gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV).
Chocolate & cocoa: Sources of this delicious toxin are commonly found in all sorts of holiday treats. The toxins of concern in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine which share a mechanism of action. The amount of theobromine in chocolate is dependent on the concentration of the chocolate. For example, milk chocolate contains 44-60mg/oz of theobromine while unsweetened baking chocolate contains 390-450-mg/oz. Poisoning can be seen when theobromine doses exceed 20mg/kg (agitation, GI signs) with more sever clinical signs occurring >40-60mg/kg (cardiotxicity, tachycardia, arrhythmias; neurotoxicity, tremors, seizures, etc.) Dual poisoning may result following the ingestion of certain chocolate covered foods such as espresso beans/caffeine (hypertension, tachycardia, agitation, seizures, etc.) macadamia nuts (weakness, ataxia, tremors, hyperthermia, pancreatitis, etc.) or raisins (i.e. acute renal failure)
This list is put out by the Pet Poison Helpline in an effort to help us be more aware of the dangers that surround our pets during the holiday season.
The doctors and staff at the Animal Medical Center on Crow River wish you, your family and your pets and livestock Happy Holidays!