Holiday cheer loaded with dangers for pets

December 6, 2012

While the festive season is filled with treats and tinsel, Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital is warning pet owners to be mindful of often overlooked holiday dangers.

Murdoch Pet Emergency Centre (MPEC) Senior Registrar Dr Ryan Ong said many people were unaware that chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes and lilies all had the potential to harm cats and dogs.

“Chocolate is poisonous for dogs, and is probably the most common food-related cause of admission that we see during the season,” Dr Ong said.

“The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is, because cocoa contains a stimulant, theobromine, which affects the central nervous system and which pets metabolise much slower than humans. Ultimately this can affect the heart muscle and be fatal.”

Signs of chocolate poisoning include hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, a fast or irregular heartbeat, panting, overheating and collapse.

“If you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, the best thing to do is bring them in immediately for treatment.”

Dr Ong said while cats were also susceptible, they were less likely to consume chocolate because of their inability to taste sweetness.

What is very toxic to felines, however, are lilies.

“If you have cats, avoid lilies, as all parts of the plant are toxic and even small amounts can be fatal. Even the pollen is a serious problem,” Dr Ong said.

Lily ingestion is linked to acute kidney or renal failure within 24 to 72 hours. Warning signs include loss of appetite, depression and vomiting followed by abdominal tenderness and a marked reduction in urination.

Less severe, macadamia nuts are a no-no for dogs. Symptoms of ingestion include muscle tremors, wobbly walking, weakness, an elevated heart rate and vomiting and may take up to 12 hours to appear.

“The severity of the reaction is related to how much is consumed,” Dr Ong said.

“Your dog may be under the weather for a few days if the amount is small, but large amounts have been linked to kidney problems.”

Kidney problems also occur when dogs consume grapes and raisins, the signs of which include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased thirst and urination.

“While we want to encourage people to share the holiday with their pets, it’s really about being aware and looking out for your loved ones,” Dr Ong said.

Dr Ong added people in the areas of fireworks on New Year’s Eve should keep pets indoors, as pets were often panicked and disorientated by fireworks.

He said the number of pets that went missing spiked in areas with fireworks on holiday occasions, reinforcing the need for owners to microchip their animals.

Dr Ong also urged people leaving their pets behind while overseas or interstate on holiday to ensure that their carers have the means to contact them especially in an emergency.

“Animals get sick over the holidays too. Ensuring that you are contactable in an emergency means your pet’s carer is not left to shoulder the burden of responsibility.”

MPEC provides a 24 hour, seven day a week comprehensive emergency and critical care service at Murdoch’s South Street campus. For assistance with emergency cases, contact MPEC on 1300 652 494.

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Comments (2 responses)

Gwen Ferry July 7, 2015

Can you please tell me if citrus fruit including grapefruit are toxic to dogs or upset them? What part is dangerous and what are the side effects.

thank you

Hayley Mayne July 7, 2015

Hi Gwen,

There are no parts of citrus fruit or the citrus plant that are poisonous to animals. They can safely eat grapefruits and any other citrus fruit, although many of them will choose not to because of the bitter flavour of the rind.

Citrus oil extracts found in some cleaners and pesticides (e.g. d-limonene, linalool) have been shown to be poisonous to dogs and cats, causing skin irritation, drooling, vomiting, and lethargy.

Thanks Hayley

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