Winter Hazards for Pets

By December 5, 2016 December 3rd, 2018 Uncategorized

Avoid holiday food items that could cause problems for your pet. Below is a list to be aware of this holiday season.


  • Onions – Onions are toxic raw or cooked. They can cause a mild to severe, life threatening anemia referred to as ‘Heinz Body Anemia’. The disulfides that cause the anemia are produced in the colon and therefore, it can take up to 5 days for the anemia to occur. Remember garlic is in the onion family!!
  • Chocolate – The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is this is because it contains more of the active ingredient, theobromine (a type of xanthine). Theobromine has a long half-life in the dog (up to 20 hours) the symptoms of chocolate toxicity vary but range from lethargy, GI upset to tremors, seizures and death. As a rough guideline, less than 2 oz. of MILK chocolate per kg and less than 0.2oz of baking chocolate is potentially LETHAL in dogs.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine is another type of xanthine and occurs in coffees, teas, some chocolates, some soft drinks and some stimulant products. The symptoms are similar to chocolate toxicity. 140mg/kg of caffeine is potentially lethal to dogs. An average cup of coffee contains 40mg of caffeine e, while espresso contains 1000mg/oz. watch those chocolate covered coffee beans! They’re a double whammy for toxicity!
  • Yeast dough – As the dough rises, it produces ethanol and pets that eat this can look very “drunk”. Treatment is aggressive fluid therapy. Brewer’s yeast in itself is not a concern.
  • Grapes and Raisins – These can cause serious and life threatening kidney disease and kidney failure. The symptoms usually begin as lethargy and progress to GI signs but can last days to weeks after ingestion before the kidneys finally fail. There have been reports of dogs getting seriously ill eating only 10-15 grapes and other dogs that consume large quantities that dog get ill. Toxicity has been seen to occur at a rate of ½ lb. grapes per 10kg dog or 1oz box of raisins per 10kg dog. It is recommended by the ASPCA poison control that all dogs ingesting grapes should be treated with IV fluids and have bloodwork monitored for 48-72 hours because caught early enough, this toxicity is quite treatable, but deadly if left.
  • Moldy and spoiled foods – Any moldy or spoiled food can contained “tremorgenic Mycotoxins” and can cause seizures. This includes garbage ingestion, also compost and any old moldy cheese or bread the owner decides to give the dog.

Holiday Plants

  • Lilies: Can be found in many holiday floral arrangements and can cause kidney failure in cats.
  • Poinsettias: Are generally overrated for toxicity. They are irritating to the mouth and stomach and cause mild to moderate GI upset.
  • Mistletoe: Has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems but generally only causes GI upset.
  • Holly: Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and lethargy.
  • Christmas tree Water: Contains fertilizer and if stagnant is a great breeding ground for bacteria, can cause GI upset.


  • Liquid Potpourris –
    Pets can be exposed to direct ingestion or contact with spills/grooming. Can result in severe oral, ocular and dermal damage.
  • Ice Melting Products – Can be irritating to the skin and mouth. Symptoms could include drooling, depression, vomiting, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol toxicity) – Ethylene glycol has a pleasant taste but unfortunately small amounts can be lethal. As little as one teaspoon can be deadly to a cat; less than 4 teaspoons can be dangerous to a 5kg dog. Antifreeze is rapidly absorbed from the blood stream and forms calcium oxalate crystals which destroy the kidneys completely. Initial symptoms include increased thirst and urination, off balance and drunk looking, severe sleepiness and progress to seizures, coma and death once the kidneys fail, usually within 72 hours. Treatment consists of inducing vomiting, activated charcoal treatment, aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, administering intravenous ethanol to prevent crystal formation. It is critical the treatment be started no later than 6 hours post ingestion as once the pets BUN and Creatinine (kidney enzymes start to rise, the condition is 100% fatal without dialysis.)

What to do if a pet is poisoned

Find out WHAT the poison is. Have the owner keep and bring the label/product when you come in. This is extremely important! What you should do before you bring your pet in:

  • If the toxin is an irritant: EG poinsettia, rinse your pets mouth with water if possible.
  • If the toxin is not an irritant and the pet is conscious E.G. antifreeze, chocolate, grapes then administer some hydrogen peroxide before putting your pet in the car to drive to the clinic. You may give 1 teaspoon per 10lbs, if you cannot drive right away this can be repeated ONCE only if vomiting does not occur within 20 minutes. Excessive hydrogen peroxide can cause gastric ulceration.

It is important that you must come to the clinic right away or to an emergency clinic in the case of certain toxicities. A “wait and see” approach is no good since by the time symptoms show up, the chance of successful treatment is diminished.

LifeLearn Admin

Author LifeLearn Admin

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