Holidays Can Be Hazardous to Pets

Food, decorations and rituals that make the holidays festive for people can be hazardous to pets. This is what pet owners need to do to keep the season safe for their animals.

Setting out sweets to snack on may seem innocent, but candy can cause digestive upsets, and chocolate is toxic. Chocolate is the third most common cause of poisoning in dogs. Certain chemicals in chocolate, notably caffeine and theobromine, (the·o·bro·mine A bitter, colorless alkaloid found in chocolate products and used as a diuretic, vasodilator, and myocardial stimulant.) can cause erratic heartbeat and in large enough doses can kill your pup. While you're getting used to that idea, consider this: the second most common cause of canine poisoning (after rat and mouse poison) is ibuprofen, the well-known pain reliever. Dogs apparently love the smell and taste, so they chew through the bottles, eat the contents, vomit their guts out, and die. Dinning on chocolate and Advil might seem nutty to us, but it's pretty serious to the dogs.

It's true that at extreme doses the sheer volume of fatty food can cause problems such as pancreatitis, which is often the culprit when a dog gets sick after eating garbage. But chocolate alone is plenty toxic. This is more apparent in the concentrated forms of chocolate. I cited the toxic threshold for milk chocolate because, being sweet; it's what dogs gorge on most often. But where milk chocolate contains 65 milligrams of caffeine and theobromine per ounce, semisweet chocolate contains 165 milligrams and baking chocolate has 300 to 400. A dog that eats a package of baking chocolate isn't necessarily overeating but could still wind up dead.

Theobromine is one of a class of chemical compounds called methylxanthines, which also include caffeine and theophylline (found in tea). They're all stimulants and not good for your pooch (or for you, for that matter) in excess. The amount of chocolate that will harm your dog will vary depending on the size, age, health of your dog, and the type of chocolate. Baker's chocolate has much more theobromine than regular milk chocolate. There's not much else to why it will kill your dog, there are lots of things that will kill dogs, or humans, or any other animal. Too much caffeine can be fatal to humans, you'll never drink enough to kill you at one time so don't fret.

Other people food that can be toxic includes onions, garlic and raisins. Holly, ivy, mistletoe and poinsettia are all toxic. Make sure pets don’t get into garbage or on countertops where there’s food. Feed pet’s only commercial pet food. Never let a pet consume alcohol.

Don’t put gifts that contain food under the tree where pets can get to them, too much rich food can cause life-threatening pancreatitis.

Tinsel, electric cords, lit candles and ornaments are attractive to pets. Tinsel can be fatal if eaten and electric cords can cause electrocution if chewed on. Never leave lit candles unattended, hang ornaments out of reach and make sure the Christmas tree is secured so it can’t be knocked down.

If you’re hosting a party, a house full of people can be stressful to pets. Fireworks and other loud noises also can be stressful. Have a safe quiet place to keep pets so they don’t become frightened and hurt themselves.

If a new pet is on your gift list, wait until after the holidays to actually introduce the new pet to the family. Being introduced to new surroundings is stressful enough on a puppy or kitten without the added excitement of the holidays.

Wait until things quiet down, dangerous decorations are put away and the house can be ‘animal-proofed’ and made safe.

Nothing will ruin the Holliday Spirit more than having a pet become sick because they ate chocolate candy and other harmful food. To be on the safe side, you should have a number of a vet that is working the holidays, and is close by.

12/10/2007 11:40:34 PM
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