HOLIDAY HOUSEHOLD HAZARDS
While the holidays can be joyful, they can also be stressful for you and your pets. Knowing what can be dangerous for your pet and eliminating it from the environment or being cautious might help relieve some of that anxiety.
Christmas trees, Poinsettias, Christmas Cactus, and Christmas tree preservative are all fairly benign:
The most common clinical signs after ingestion of the needles are vomiting, anorexia, abdominal pain and depression. The toxicity of poinsettias is generally overrated. Most pets just experience mild, self-limiting vomiting that resolves with little to no treatment. The Christmas cactus is considered to be non-toxic. Ingestion may cause mild gastrointestinal upset. Most pets will not require care for vomiting. Most pets that drink water containing Christmas tree preservative develop no signs. Occasionally we can see mild GI signs, rarely, bacterial/fungal contamination of the water may lead to more severe signs.
MORE SERIOUS PLANT OFFENDERS:
Most ingestion of mistletoe cause just a mild gastritis. If purchased in a store, the berries frequently have been removed and replaced with plastic "berries" which can be a foreign body. Large ingestions may require decontamination and cardiovascular (heart, blood pressure) monitoring.
The Oxalis plant family can cause irreversible kidney damage and possibly kidney failure since it contains oxalates. Vomiting is common.
Amaryllis are common ornamental bulb plants, forced to bloom at Christmas time. All parts of the plant are toxic, however the bulbs contain the highest concentration of alkaloids. The quantity ingested or the portion ingested can make a tremendous difference in toxicity. Ingesting foliage generally only results in drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Large ingestions, or ingestion of the bulb can cause hypotension, weakness, ataxia (difficulty walking), tremors and seizures. In general, prognosis is good. Large ingestions or cases with severe signs do require aggressive treatment.
Cringing when I saw this picture of a cat so close to a lily!
Members of the Lilium and Hemerocallis genera (Easter lilies, tiger lilies, day lilies, etc.) cause acute renal (kidney) failure in cats. The toxic principle is unknown. Even minor exposures (bite on a leaf, ingestion of pollen) may result in toxicosis, so all feline exposures to lilies should be considered potentially life-threatening. It should be noted that not all plants with “lily” in the name are members of Liliaceae. The lily flowers tend to be star shaped, with a deep throat, and they may have speckles. When in doubt, bring the plant with you to the veterinarian’s office.
Delaying treatment beyond 18 hours frequently results in death or euthanasia. In severe cases, peritoneal dialysis may aid in managing kidney failure until tubular regeneration occurs (10-14 days or longer). In severe cases, death or euthanasia due to acute renal failure generally occurs within 3 to 6 days of ingestion.
Chocolate is a mixture of cocoa beans and cocoa butter. It contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both classified as methylxanthines. Unfortunately, pets are sensitive to the effects of methylxanthines. Depending on the dose, methylxanthines can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, and potentially death. Other effects seen with chocolate overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, increased urination, and lethargy.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute. Use of xylitol has recently expanded in popularity, and xylitol is found in many sugar-free gums, candies, and other foods. Dogs appear sensitive to xylitol, and ingestion can result in rapid, life-threatening hypoglycemia and with higher doses, have been associated with liver failure.
Onions and other members of this genus include garlic, leek, shallot, and chive. Pieces of onion, onion powder, or even cooked onion, can cause damage to red blood cells which could result in anemia in both dogs and cats. Clinical signs associated with onion poisoning include hemolytic anemia, hemoglobin in the urine (which can cause kidney damage), vomiting, weakness, and pallor.
Macadamia nuts may cause problems if ingested by dogs. Clinical signs commonly reported in dogs ingesting macadamia nuts include weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and hyperthermia. The cause for their sensitivity is unknown. These nuts are often in cookies, chocolates, and other treats.
Rising Bread Dough
Ingestion of rising bread dough can be life-threatening to dogs. The animal's body heat will cause the dough to rise in the stomach. Ethanol (alcohol) is produced during the rising process; high levels of salt in the dough can cause imbalances of body fluids and minerals in the bloodstream; and the dough may expand several times its original size. Signs seen with bread dough ingestion are associated with ethanol toxicosis, salt toxicosis, and foreign body obstruction may include severe abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, incoordination, and depression.
Treatment in cases of recent ingestion in asymptomatic dogs, involves inducing emesis. In some cases, dough removal may necessitate surgery.
Grapes and Raisins
Some types of grapes and raisins have been shown to cause kidney failure in dogs. The basis for kidney failure following consumption of grapes or raisins is unclear, but is currently being studied in the veterinary community. The amount of grapes or raisins that may cause renal failure is not exactly known, so any amount could potentially be dangerous.
Moldy Foods, Trash, and Bones
Moldy foods may contain certain tremorgenic mycotoxins. Tremorgenic mycotoxins can induce muscle tremors, ataxia, and convulsions that can last for several days. Intoxications have been reported in many species; however, dogs that roam or have access to spoiled foods are more at risk.
Due to their small size, cats and dogs are far more sensitive to ethanol than humans are. Even ingesting a small amount of a product containing alcohol can cause significant intoxication. Cats are particularly attracted to mixed drinks that contain milk, cream or ice cream (e.g. White Russian, alcoholic eggnog, Brandy Alexander). Ethanol is rapidly absorbed orally and signs can develop within 30-60 minutes. Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor. In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Pets who are inebriated should be monitored and given supportive care by a veterinarian until they recover.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog on...
OTHER HOUSEHOLD HAZARDS
Dr. Dana Lewis
Dr. Dana assists families with Pet Hospice and Euthanasia in the Raleigh North Carolina area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle, as well as Wake, Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties.)