Pet News

Nov 30, 2010 2:57 AM by Dr. Anya Winslow

Toxic versus non-toxic: Pets can't tell

Pets could land themselves in the animal hospital if owners do not keep a few holiday foods and items out of paws reach.

Rich foods and shiny holiday decorations fill most homes during the holiday season and pets are naturally fascinated by these items; but certain things could be extremely harmful to their health if ingested.

Veterinarian Dr. Heather Becker fills us in on the harmful foods and items that can pose a risk to pets over the holidays.

Hot toxic ticket items: chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, holiday lights, hand and foot warmers, Mistletoe, Holly, and, yes, tinsel.

Over the holidays, "The biggest thing we see in the emergency room is chocolate toxicity. A lot of dogs will actually seek it out," Becker says. "The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is," she emphasizes while, "Milk chocolate tends to be less toxic to them," but it really depends on the size of your dog, as well as the type and amount of chocolate they ate.

If you suspect your pet rummaged through the chocolate candy bowl, the best thing to do is call your veterinarian or the animal hospital. They will advise you on what to do next.

She also recommends not placing wrapped or unwrapped chocolates on coffee tables or under the Christmas tree. It is also important to dispose of garbage properly. Dogs have incredible noses and will seek things out and eat them.

Grapes, raisins and foods containing them can be poisonous to dogs, too. So, be aware of the oatmeal cookies and fruit cakes over the holiday season.

Some telltale symptoms of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, or any other change in their behavior. They may become anxious or frantic and even begin pacing and panting and/or running around the home.

Although it is not a holiday food, sugarless gum is toxic for dogs, too.

Cat owners have a little less to worry about when it comes to foods that are considered toxic to cats; and cats tend to stay away from table foods. One food that is known to cause a serious problem for cats is onions.

Holiday decorations peak cats' interest, especially tinsel. Dr. Becker says, "Cats love those stringy-type things and if they ingest enough of it, it can actually cause a foreign body. So, it can become something life threatening for them."

It is best to keep that little bit of sparkle off the tree if you have cats in your home. Immediately call your vet if you believe that your cat ate some tinsel.

A few other things to be wary of include holiday lights and hand and foot warmers. If your pet bites its way through the holiday lights, they may sustain some burns in their mouth or an electric shock. Hand and foot warmers are also extremely toxic to both cats and dogs.

Poinsettia plants, Mistletoe, and Holly are among the toxic plant culprits. For an extended list of plants, click here.

If your pet may have eaten something harmful and you are unsure of what to do, Dr. Becker advises, "Call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns," and if they are unavailable, call or go to your local animal hospital.

Last but not least Becker also states, "We do not advise [for you] to give Pepto-Bismol or any of the over-the-counter medications [to your pet] because some of those actually can cause harm as well."

If you think your pet may have eaten something that could pose a threat to their health, the ASPCA has a resource center that is available 24 hours a day, too.

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