• Tis the season to be...wary?

    Of course we all think of the holidays as festive times; lots of celebrations with food, drink, family and friends.  And for the most part, that's true.  To keep the good time rollin' for your furry friends, there are a few things to consider.

    We all know that chocolate has varying degrees of toxicity for dogs, with dark being most toxic, then semi-sweet, then milk, then white.  And it actually takes a fair amount of chocolate's active ingredient theobromine, to cause a problem.  Consult your vet if there is an accidental ingestion, or call the animal poison control hotline at 888-426-4435.  There is already chocolate in abundance at my house and my new big dog Champ counter surfs!  This is a novel experience for me as neither my Sainted Moby or Beloved Bosun could reach those heights.  But this young Golden has no trouble-or qualms-about helping himself. The shoemaker's children...

    Raisins too can be trouble, and in small doses.  While it's true that many of us have been giving grapes and raisins as treats to dogs for years with no problem, there is a small population for whom an idiosyncratic response can lead to kidney damage.  It's not known why those fruits destroy kidney cells, or why some animals are prone while others are not, but when the toxicity occurs, it can be deadly without immediate, aggressive treatment.

    Lillies are often included in holiday floral arrangements, and if ingested by a cat, they can be deadly. The toxic principal causes kidney failure and requires prompt hospitalization.  All parts of the plant are poisonous, though the flower has the most toxin.

    Good time to dispel the myth about poinsettias.  While I wouldn't encourage a pet to eat one, they are little more than GI irritants, causing an upset stomach.

    It's not just food which is a cause of concern around the holidays.  Recall that cats love long linear objects.  So when you cover your tree in tinsel, beware of your cat's attraction to it.  Wrapping ribbon might seem like a toy, but like tinsel, if ingested it can get trapped in the gut or strangle the bowel.  Be extra alert for a cat playing with linear objects like string, tinsel or ribbon.

    If we do have a white Christmas, then think about the salt you may sprinkle after shoveling. Salt irritates when it gets on paws.  Then animals lick their paws, causing GI irritation.  There are pet-friendly salts available for your paths.

    Sometimes older cars, including mine, leak a little antifreeze as the weather cools and warms again.  Unfortunately, antifreeze has a sweet taste which is appealing to animals.  But it's a deadly kidney poison so take great care to clean any leaks from vehicles before a pet can lick it.

    Wishing you and your pets a happy and safe holiday!


    Dr. Celeste Conn
    The Visiting Veterinarian


    Dr. Conn has a house call practice in Kent County.