Holiday pet dangers

Holiday sweets and plants and their effects on your pet

What would the holidays be without boxes of chocolate and warm cocoa in front of the fire? However, chocolate can be toxic or even fatal to dogs and cats. Chocolate may be mistakenly given to pets as treats and may be irresistible to the curious canine. Chocolate poisoning occurs most frequently in dogs but other species are also susceptible. Theobromine is the toxic compound found in chocolate. Signs which may appear within 1 to 4 hours of eating chocolate include:

* Vomiting

* Increased thirst

* Diarrhea

* Weakness

* Difficulty keeping balance

* Hyperexcitability

* Muscle spasms, seizures, coma

* Death from abnormal heart rhythm

The toxicity of chocolate depends on the amount and type of chocolate ingested:

Source Potential Toxic Dose (44lb dog)

Unsweetened Cocoa 3oz

Baking Chocolate 5oz

Semisweet Chocolate 7oz

Milk Chocolate 20oz

The amount of theobromine in white chocolate or chocolate flavored dog treats is usually negligible. As with any poisoning, call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately if you suspect your pet may have ingested chocolate. Have the product label information available when you call your veterinarian. There are national and regional poison control hotlines for animals. In general, the treatment of poisonings is most effective if begun soon after eating the poison, before large amounts are absorbed into the blood.

Poinsettias fill homes with color during the holidays. Poinsettias have received bad publicity in the past whereas in fact, poinsettias are not very toxic to pets. They do contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth but if signs develop they are usually mild.

Mistletoe can be very toxic to animals and you should seek veterinary consultation immediately if your pet has potentially ingested any part of the plant. Mistletoe can cause vomiting, severe diarrhea, difficult breathing, shock and death within hours of ingestion.

There are many species of Holly (genus Ilex) Berries and leaves can be a problem although signs of poisonings are generally mild, and include vomiting, belly pain, and diarrhea.

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