Each year the holidays bring together family, friends, and food. Spending time with others is a special part of the season. The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) encourages pet owners to remain vigilant during celebrations to ensure pets aren’t exposed to potentially toxic sources.
Chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol all have varying effects on pets if ingested. For example, alcohol can cause a drop in temperature, blood pressure, and blood sugar leading to alcohol poisoning. Xylitol, a common ingredient in candy and gum, can cause liver failure and death. It’s also important to note that every animal is different in the amount of toxic food they can tolerate. Some pets can ingest a small amount of a toxin and be fine while other pets may begin vomiting or develop diarrhea, nervousness, hyperactivity, bloat, and potentially die. Although the holidays are a time for sharing, it’s important to not share food with pets.
Prior to ringing in the new year, it’s important to be aware of where fireworks are stored and if pets have access to this location. Fireworks contain hundreds of ingredients that are dangerous to cats and dogs. Aluminum, barium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc are all common ingredients in fireworks. If ingested or inhaled, an animal may develop diarrhea, shallow breathing, jaundice, and lethargy. However, vigilance shouldn’t end after the fireworks show. Firework debris can also be a source of toxicity to pets.
Aside from the toxic sources of fireworks, some pets may be scared by loud noises and in turn, attempt to escape their enclosures. Each year many pets go missing or injure themselves during firework shows.
Holiday favorites, such as poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly can lead to various health issues if ingested by a pet. Anything from plant leaves to berries can lead to toxicosis. Animals that ingest these plants may experience gastric distress, such as vomiting and diarrhea.
TVMDL recommends pet owners contact their local veterinarian if they believe an animal has been exposed to a potentially toxic substance. TVMDL offers a variety of tests to detect exposure to numerous toxic sources. For more information, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call TVMDL’s full service laboratory in College Station.