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The original item was published from 12/12/2016 2:10:00 PM to 12/13/2016 3:30:04 PM.

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Posted on: December 12, 2016

[ARCHIVED] Tips to Prevent Pet Poinsing over the Winter Holidays

On behalf the Millburn Health Department’s Nursing Division we would like share a few tips to keep your pets from becoming ill this holiday season.  Veterinarians from Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping items like decorations, certain plants, and holiday foods away from your pets. The following is a list of some of the most dangerous and important suggestions for your pet’s safety this holiday season.    

Holiday Foods:

For many of us the holiday season brings delightful variety of chocolate confections, baked goods, and other rich foods.  However, it is not wise and potentially quite dangerous to share these “treats” with your pets.  Make sure to keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the upcoming holidays.  Be mindful to inform guests (especially children) that Fido and Mittens kibble is all they can have.  Do not let family and friends sneak “treats” as there are many subtle ingredients that can present health problems and even death for your beloved pets.

Foods like:

•Grapes, raisins and currants (like in fruitcakes) can cause kidney failure in dogs.

•Theobromine is a chemical found in Chocolate and cocoa is highly toxic to dogs & cats.  

oEating even small amounts can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea.

oLarge amounts can cause seizures, heart arrhythmias, and death.

•Many candies and sugarless gums contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs.

oXylitol causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar & liver failure. (so watch out for candy-dish candies being reachable by pets)

•Fatty meat scraps and other leftovers can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea in many types of pets. (Just like people pets can die from pancreatitis too)

If your pet is exposed any of the above seek veterinary help as soon as possible for potentially lifesaving interventions.

Holiday Ornaments:

With the holiday season approaching please consider your pets while decorating and making your home filled with holiday cheer.  The Pet Poison Hot Line says, “Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If your pet chews on them the liquid inside could be could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract.”  So be mindful about what kind of festive decorations you choose.  


If you are a cat owner, please skip the tinsel this year.  What we think of as festive decorations looks just like a shiny new toy to your cat and can prove deadly to our furry friends if eaten.  The Pet Poison Hot Line reports, “Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed.  Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.”  


Poinsettias tend to have a bad rap but in reality these plants are only mildly toxic. (Pet Poison Hot Line, 2016)  Although poinsettias can cause harm to your pet, some far worse plants are found in are holiday bouquets containing mistletoe, holly or lilies.  “Lilies, including tiger, Asiatic, stargazer, Easter and day lilies, are the most dangerous plants for cats,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant director of Pet Poison Helpline. “The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats.”   The Pet Poison Hot Line also warns of “other yuletide pants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrhythmias if ingested.”


Alcohol is not only dangerous for people but also for pets because it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can rapidly affect pets.  According to the Veterinarians at Pet Poison Hot Line; “Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Additionally, foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.”  

Imported Snow Globes:

According to the Pet Poison Hot Line recently many imported snow globes have been found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). “As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal.  Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy.  While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure.” (Pet Poison Hot Line, 2014)    The Veterinarians of the Pet Poison Hot Line report that your pet needs immediate treatment with an antidote if you pet is exposed to antifreeze.

Liquid Potpourri:

Filling your house with pleasant scents of the season always nice but could pose very dangerous and harmful to your pets.  Nutmeg and cinnamon are considered inviting scents but may be inviting some serious harm to your cat.  Just a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth.  If that wasn’t bad enough fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors can also result from liquid potpourri exposure.  


Over all, when it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do to safeguard their pet is to become educated.  Knowing common household toxins allows you to pet-proof your home accordingly.  If you ever think your pet may have been poisoned, please contact your veterinarian and/or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 as soon as possible with any questions or concerns. Please note there is a nominal fee ($49.00) associated with calling the 24/7 hotline and you must have a debit or credit card ready for you case to be processed. Although there is a cost associated with this service; in many circumstances calling this number could save your pets life or even potentially save you a more costly trip to your veterinarian. Additionally, the ASPCA also offers a pet poison hotline at (888) 426-4435 which may incur a $65 consultation fee. Finally, the Nursing Division wishes your family, you and your pets a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!

For further educational information contact Ashley Messer, Public Health RN/Health Educator of the Millburn Health Department’s Nursing Division (973)-535-7961 x227.

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