November 30, 2010

Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holidays

During the busy holiday season, it's easy to overlook items that can be toxic to your pets. Some common holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, lilies and even your Christmas tree, can pose a certain level of danger. In most cases, except lilies, the level of toxicity depends upon how much your pet consumes and the weight of that pet.

The poinsettia has a kind of white sap that is emitted when the leaves and bracts are broken or chewed on. Christmas trees contain fir tree oil, which is emitted when the needles and branches are chewed on.

Both of these are irritants which may cause vomiting and/or irritation of the mouth and throat, although a great deal of sap or oil would have to be ingested to cause poisoning. Poinsettia sap and fir tree oil don't taste very good, which you would think would be enough to stop your pet after one bite. But most pet owners can list of bizarre and ostensibly inedible things their pets have chewed on with apparent relish. My own list would include ice gel packs, Christmas cactus, aloe vera, bras, yarn, ribbon, rags and socks.

Be sure to cover your Christmas tree stand so your pets can't get to the water. If you can't cover your stand, do not add Christmas tree preservative, aspirin, or anything else designed to keep your tree fresh. Mistletoe and holly berries are poisonous when consumed in large amounts. The toxicity would again depend upon how much was ingested and the pet's size. The symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, urinating more than usual and drooling a lot. If your mistletoe has suddenly disappeared or you see your pet eating holly berries, by all means talk to your vet.

By far the most dangerous plant to cats are lilies, including Stargazer, Day, Asian, Glory, Rubrum, and Tiger lilies. While they are striking in bouquets, when even a tiny amount is ingested they can cause kidney failure and death in cats. The flower itself is apparently the most toxic, but all parts of the plant, including the leaves and even the pollen, is dangerous. Symptoms develop within 12 hours and include vomiting, seizures, tremors and lethargy. Renal failure sets in within 36 hours and by then it is usually too late to save the cat. READ MORE: North Potomac Patch

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