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Holiday Dangers for PetsBy M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many pet owners are unsure which plants, foods, and decorations are and are not for their pets.
Most species of lilies are deadly to cats. In some cases, a small amount of pollen or even one leaf can cause sudden kidney failure. Christmas cactus and Christmas (English) holly can cause significant damage to the stomach and intestinal tract of dogs and cats. Death is not usually reported, but it’s best to keep these plants out of reach. If your pet ingests some of these plants, call your veterinarian immediately.
A holiday myth is that Poinsettias and mistletoe are toxic to pets. These plants are not as toxic as urban legend describes. Poinsettias have little crystals in them that can be irritating to the pet’s mouth or skin, but serious poisonings are almost unheard of. American mistletoe (the kind we use for Christmas parties) is not very toxic, generally causing mild stomach upset. Its cousin, European mistletoe is more toxic and causes more problems.
The most dangerous foods at this time of year are chocolates and cocoa, sugarless gum/candies containing Xylitol, fatty meat scraps and yeast bread dough. The often derided gift — fruitcake — is actually quite dangerous to our pets. Grapes, raisins and currants are common ingredients and have been implicated in kidney failure in dogs. In addition, many fruitcakes have been soaked in rum or other alcohols making it doubly dangerous to pets. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream causing drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature.
Play it safe with your pets this holiday season. If you have any questions about the potential dangers of holiday plants, decorations, or foods, contact your veterinary office for answers.
M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM lives in North Bennington, Vt. Find out more at www.vtvets.org or call 878-6888.