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23714 222nd Place SE, Ste L,
Maple Valley, WA 98038

Holiday Potpourri

During the holiday season I thought I’d cover a few topics.

As we celebrate with family and friends, we need to remember our pets’ safety during this season.  I hate to hear people say, “There goes the Christmas money” when they are paying the bill for their pet’s preventable medical problem.  My goal is to point out some of the risks to make you more aware and careful in your home, and saving you and your pet unnecessary grief.

Let’s start with food.  Everyone knows about chocolate and cocoa are a risk, and I can’t count how many times I have treated a dog for getting into the holiday chocolate stash.  Foods that contain grapes, raisins and currants can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, is toxic to dogs.  Fatty, rich foods and leftovers can cause inflammation of the intestinal tract and pancreas, which can range from minor distress to life threatening disease.

Another holiday risk is ornaments and decorations.  Glass ornaments can break and cut tongues and skin.  Liquid inside bubble ornaments can be toxic, causing some serious symptoms.  Homemade dough ornaments can cause abnormally high sodium levels if eaten, and lead to neurologic problems.   If you use these types of ornaments, place them well out of reach of your pet.  Electrical wires can also be dangerous, cats and puppies especially like to play with the dangling lights.  Strategic placement of electrical cords is the key to decreasing exposure and injury.

Tinsel, what is more fun to a cat than a shiny piece of string?  Tinsel is a frequent cause of serious gastrointestinal problems in cats.  They play with the tinsel, swallow it and the tinsel causes bunching of the intestines and often requires surgery for the cat to recover.  Once again (I know- I’m being redundant!) keep any string-like decoration out of reach of curious and playful pets.

It seems like most people know that poinsettias can cause problems, and poinsettias can cause minor gastrointestinal problems when eaten.  If you have cats, do not allow any decorations containing Lily type plants in your home.  Cats are very sensitive to Lilies and very small exposure can cause fatal kidney disease.  Holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets, causing irritation from eating the prickly leaves and more serious gastrointestinal symptoms when ingested.

Alcohol and pets don’t mix and it isn’t very common to see a pet that drinks straight alcohol, but remember that many holiday foods and treats have alcohol in them.  Fruitcakes, holiday pies (my mother always puts rum in her mincemeat pie) and some chocolate treats can have alcohol in them.  Uncooked dough can also cause problems.  Not only does the rising dough expand in the stomach, causing serious problems (bloating and obstruction), the alcohol from the fermenting yeast is absorbed into the bloodstream.  Alcohol intoxication can lead to serious symptoms up to including problems breathing and seizures.

Most people are aware that anti-freeze is a risk to pets, sadly if you don’t treat the pet immediately after ingestion, the chances of surviving aren’t very good.  I always recommend using pet safe anti-freeze if you change your own anti-freeze at home.  I don’t like risking it, and use one of our local oil change businesses to handle all my automobile liquid addition, removal and disposal.  Ice melting substances usually contain salt, which can cause irritation to pets’ feet and skin. If eaten, the more they eat, the worse it can be causing serious neurologic symptoms from salt poisoning.

Lastly, seems appropriate to end with potpourri. Cats are very sensitive to liquid potpourri.  It can irritate their mouth and cause other serious symptoms.    The dry potpourri can also cause chemical burns and can obstruct the intestinal tract if eaten.  Yummy smelling candles also can cause a risk of obstruction if a pet thinks it smells good enough to eat.

The take home message of this article is:  If you want to spend your Christmas money on Christmas, keep things that might be problematic out of your pets reach this holiday season. We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and we are looking forward to 2015, when we will be celebrating Wilderness Animal Hospital’s 50th year in business! As usual, contact me with any questions or comments,, or go to our Facebook page or website,