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Holiday pet dangers: Keep your furry friends safe this season

Pet poisonings are highest during November and December, as our furry friends can get into a number of things during holiday gatherings.
Holiday pet dangers: Keep your furry friends safe this season
Posted at 12:38 PM, Nov 22, 2023

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family, friends and even our fur babies.

But it can also be a dangerous time for our pets.

Pet poisonings rise during the holiday months, when food and other items are introduced at homes and gatherings that our furry friends can get into.

"We receive more potential poisoning calls in November and December than any other time of the year," Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, said in a press release. 

Toxic treats

Last year, a pooch named Kona ingested an entire 1.75L bottle of Kirkland Traditional Holiday Eggnog. The main issue was the alcohol in it. 

"Many holiday eggnogs are spiked with liquor," said Schmid. "Kona's ingestion posed a risk for ethanol poisoning with signs including sedation, ataxia (difficulty walking), hypoglycemia, hypothermia, gastrointestinal upset, metabolic acidosis (causing low serum bicarbonate), respiratory depression and failure. Given the volume of ethanol Kona consumed, we recommended immediate evaluation and treatment."

Luckily, Kona made a full recovery.

Another top holiday risk is chocolate, said Pet Poison Helpline. And even worse is if the chocolate contains xylitol — a natural, sugar-free sweetener that can cause life-threatening low blood sugar and acute liver failure in dogs.

Foods that can be toxic to dogs include grapes, avocados, yeast dough, coffee grounds and coffee beans, garlic, onions, and the stems and leaves of potatoes and tomatoes, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Pretty but poisonous

It’s not just foods that can be dangerous if pets ingest them.

Lilies are super popular during the holiday season. But did you know these flowers could kill your cat?

"Cats are particularly sensitive to true lilies, and need quick access to veterinary care when exposed," Schmid said. "If they receive proper care within a few hours after ingestion, their chances of survival are extremely high. If they do not receive proper care, or care is delayed, the chances of survival drop significantly, with some studies reporting a 100% fatality rate."

If you think your cat has ingested a lily, seek help immediately.

Watch the meds

Something pet owners may not think about is the threat of human medication when visitors bring pills along. 

"Of all the calls we receive at Pet Poison Helpline, animals ingesting human medications is one of our most common," Schmid said.

This was the case for an Alaskan Malamute puppy named Makita before last New Year's Eve. A family member visiting Makita’s family dropped a Percocet and couldn’t find where it went — but the pup did.

"In Makita's case, the hospital team was concerned about CNS and cardiovascular signs. Fortunately, she was treated quickly and made a full recovery, but it could have been a very negative outcome. If you have guests staying with you during the holidays, we encourage you to remind them to keep their medications out of reach from the family pets and children,” Schmid cautioned. 

Ice-melting mayhem

Many people dream of a White Christmas. 

But with snow comes icy roads and driveways. While ice-melting products are often used to keep pathways clear, the substances can be poisonous to pets.

Last winter, a Golden Retriever puppy named Maui was poisoned after consuming half a cup of ice melt.

The primary concern for veterinarians was the sodium chloride in the product, which can cause severe gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system signs, according to Pet Poison Helpline.

Maui was treated and returned home healthy thanks to swift action from her parents. 

If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your local animal hospital or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.

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