Friday, February 15, 2019
Pet Health

How to Avoid Spending the Holidays at an Animal Emergency Clinic

The Holidays are one of the happiest and most hectic seasons of the year. Unfortunately, it is also a season when animal hospitals are busier than ever attending to emergencies. During the holidays there are a number of food and decorating items that are especially dangerous to our pets, in addition, many of us are busy attending to friends and relatives, leaving our pets with less supervision. When these two factors are combined, we have a recipe for a medical disaster. In order to avoid a potentially life threatening situation for your pet, as well as an unexpected medical expense, here are the most common dangerous Holiday items, so you can plan ahead and maintain them, if possible, out of the reach of your dog(s) and cat(s).

From the dangerous food items, chocolate is perhaps one of the most common toxins seen in dogs (cats on the other hand, are not fans of sweets). The majority of dogs love all kind chocolate: dark, milk chocolate, and white. The darker and less sugary, the more toxic it is. When ingested it can lead not only to gastrointestinal upset, but also tachycardia, tremors, seizures, and in severe cases it can be fatal.

Many holiday breads and desserts contain raisins. Raisins and grapes can cause acute injury to the kidneys leading to renal failure. Cherry pits contain a minimal amount of the chemical cyanide, however when eaten in large proportions they can lead to severe poisoning (chocolate covered cherries are out of question in a household with sweet- tooth dogs!). It is common knowledge that onion and garlic, when ingested in large proportions by pets, could lead to destruction of red blood cells and anemia, however we often forget that many food items contain them, such as the turkey stuffing, so be careful when sharing your delicious dinner with your pets. Fatty foods, such as gravy and chicken/turkey skin can lead to a bout of acute pancreatitis. Chicken and turkey bones splinter easily, and can cause intestinal perforation if swallowed. Macadamia nuts found in many desserts are especially dangerous since they can lead to temporary paralysis.

Many of the sugary treats in the market nowadays contain the low calorie natural sweetener Xylitol. This compound, when ingested, will lead to a rapid drop of glucose levels in your dog, and will result in acute liver failure. Alcoholic beverages and spicy foods, common during the holidays, are also important causes of toxicity in pets. Items such as holiday plants (Mistletoe, Lilies, Poinsettias, among others), pine tree needles and Christmas tree water can cause irritation of the gastrointestinal tract of the pet when ingested. Other items such as snow globes (containing antifreeze that can spill when broke), knocked over candles, tree decorations and their hooks, Christmas light cords (when chewed up), and tinsel can lead to potential fatalities. When having pets, the home needs to be pet-proofed for the occasion, just like you would with a toddler at home. That is, a strong toddler that has the capacity to jump on counters and tables, even before you realize that the roasted turkey is gone.

the authordrsanchez
Dr Marta Sanchez-Emden is the founder of the Animal Health and Rehab Center in South Miami. She has been practicing Veterinary Medicine in Miami for over 20 years. As a Certified Veterinary Journalist, she is the resident veterinarian for various national TV shows. She authored the book “CHIHUAHUAS : How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend,” available on Amazon. Follow her at,, Twitter @DrMartavet, and