Holiday Dangers --

What to Look Out For, What to Do

The Christmas season can be full of holiday dangers. Each year, thousands of small dogs become seriously injured or ill while their owners are busy with shopping, baking and entertaining.

Pets can become very ill from a variety of common holiday meal items, including table scraps, butter, meat and candy. These foods can result in gastrointestinal upsets and pancreatitis, a painful and sometimes fatal condition.

When these conditions occur, pets might exhibit depression, vomiting, abdominal pain or lack of appetite.

In addition, poisoning from xylitol (a sugar-free ingredient found in baking goods, candy, and chewing gum) can cause a severe blood sugar problem leading to weakness, depression, and seizures.

Chocolate is another common cause of small dog holiday danger. Many types of concentrated chocolate, particularly baking chocolate or dark chocolate, can cause serious health problems depending on the size of the dog.

A small amount of milk chocolate may only cause a stomach ache, but the unsweetened baker’s chocolate is another matter.

Concerning non-food holiday dangers, eating tinsel, ornaments and garlands, even drinking holiday tree sap water, can lead to serious stomach irritation.

Another Holiday Danger -- Grapes and Raisins Toxity

Grapes and raisins can be another source of trouble. Laurinda Morris, DVM writes:

“This week I had the first case in history of raisin toxicity ever seen at MedVet. My patient was a 56-pound, 5 yr old male neutered lab mix that ate half a canister of raisins sometime between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on Tuesday. He started with vomiting, diarrhea and shaking about 1 AM on Wednesday, but the owner didn't call my emergency service until 7 AM.

I had heard somewhere about raisins and grapes causing acute renal failure but hadn't seen any formal paper on the subject. We had her bring the dog in immediately.

In the meantime, I called the ER service at MedVet, and the doctor there was like me - had heard something about it, but... Anyway, we contacted the ASPCA Poison Control Center and they said to give IV fluids and watch the kidney values for the next 48-72 hours.”

Laurinda goes on to detail the progress of the dog’s condition, which ended in complete renal failure within two days. If your small dog eats raisins, be sure to consult your vet right away.

During the holidays, prevention is really the key. Place high risk items and holiday foods out of reach. Dogs also like to chew on electrical cords, gift ribbons and strings.

Watch for symptoms of restlessness, tremors, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea and seek immediate veterinary treatment for them. Of course, our companion’s health and well being is a responsibility that goes beyond just the holidays.

Cotton Ball Remedy

If you think your small dog has eaten something like sharp chicken bones or glass shards, get a vet exam immediately, but before you leave, try this gem from an old country vet’s repertoire:

Using a natural (not synthetic) cotton puff for every two pounds of your dog’s body weight, soak them in half and half. Feed them to your dog. Soaked in the fatty liquid the cotton balls will be soft and yummy.

Once inside, they will most likely wrap themselves around the sharp shards, which will then work their way harmlessly through your dog's system.

I tried this once on an adventurous Parson’s Russell who was staying with us, after she ate a hard plastic dog bowl. Her stools looked like little mummies for a couple of days, but she was fine. Do consult with your vet but feed the cotton balls first. Time is of the essence.

Don't let innocent holiday traditions jeopardize the health of your pet. Evaluate the potential risks of your holiday decorations, plants and meals (see chart below).

And, in the hustle and bustle of the season, remember regular feeding and exercise schedules and be certain to give your small dog lots of love as you start off the New Year.

Be Aware of These Holiday Dangers:

• Raisins
• Xylitol
• Chocolate especially baking chocolate
• Candles and hot wax 
• Candies, chocolate and foil wrappers
• Alcoholic beverages
• Electrical cords 
• Ribbon, string and yarn
• Metal ornament hooks 
• Tree tinsel and confetti
• Carving and kitchen knives/blades 
• Fireworks 
• Rich, fatty foods and table scraps
• Rubber bands 
• Beads and buttons 
• Poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and greens 
• Stagnant tree stand water and chemicals 
• Intricate or fragile ornaments 
• Rock salt and antifreeze 
• Poultry bones and meat drippings 
• Small holiday lights 
• Angel hair (spun glass)
• Artificial snow and snow flocking 
• Small toys, especially those with small or unassembled parts 

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