Holiday Hazards & Pets

It’s about to be the most wonderful time of the year.  It can also be a dangerous time for our pets.  There are many things that they can get into, or be given that can cause them to get sick, and potentially be hospitalized over  the holidays.

Veterinarians tend to see the most chocolate toxicities around Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s day.  With all the baking of Christmas cookies, it is very important to keep chocolate out of your pets reach.  Baker’s and dark/semi chocolate can cause the worst toxicity.  This is because the darker the chocolate, the the more concentrated it is.  More cocoas means more caffeine and theobromine, both stimulants. Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs.  Milk chocolate contains 44 mg per ounce of theobromine, while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce.  Chocolate toxicity can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, arrhythmias, and in severe cases, death.  If you suspect your furry friend has gotten into some chocolate, please seek veterinary care immediately.

Another common occurrence around the holidays, are dogs purposely or accidentally getting fed turkey bones, ham bones, or gravy.  While the thought may be that wild animals eat bones and dogs used to be wolves, we have adapted them to no longer tolerate these things well.  Shards of bone can cause microscopic or larger tears in the stomach and intestinal lining.  A larger bone could even penetrate the intestine and cause peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal cavity), which  can make your pet very sick.  Bones that are too large to pass could cause an obstruction and require surgical removal.  It’s also common for people to want to give their pets a special treat on Thanksgiving or Christmas, by adding a little gravy to their pet’s food.  The fatty content of gravy can really upset your cat/dog’s digestive tract.  It can also lead to pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis is caused when an animal takes in a fatty meal and it becomes inflamed and releases excessive amounts of pancreatic enzymes in to the abdomen and bloodstream.  This can be painful, as well as cause your pet to feel badly.  Most animals require hospitalization, IV fluids, IV antibiotics and pain medications to help treat pancreatitis. 

If you want to show your pet extra love around the holidays, do so with a walk, a trip to the dog park, or a treat that is made especially for them.  Avoid giving them something that could cause them to get sick.

Lauren Hessey, DVM

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