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Christmas Toxins!

December 2020

Mince Pies, Christmas Cake, Poinsettia, Misteltoe, Chocolate, Raisins, Lillies and many more of these treats are toxic to our pets!

With Christmas coming up we have already had a few of our patients in for treatment after stealing a mince pie (or 6!) and so we thought we would highlight some common festive toxicities that we see at this time of year. If you are concerned that your animal has ingested any potential toxin, please ring us as soon as possible on 01483 538990 so that we can advise you on the best treatment plan for your pet.

Raisins are commonly found in Mince pies, Christmas cake, and Panettone and they can be toxic to dogs and cats. The mechanism of the toxicity is unknown, but they have been known to cause vomiting, diarrhoea and kidney failure. The toxicity is not dose dependent, so we advise that even one raisin has the potential to cause issues, and your pet should be seen as soon as possible so that we can initiate treatment. As with other toxins, the treatment will be dependent on the time passed since ingestion- if we can induce emesis before any absorption, we have a better outcome. If we are concerned about absorption, we may advise that your pet is put on a drip for 72hrs to support renal function and flush any toxins out of the system.

As with at Easter, there always seems to be more chocolate around the house at Christmas and this can put our pets at risk of ingesting it. The toxic compound found in chocolate is called theobromine and in large quantities this can cause vomiting, an increase in heart rate (known as tachycardia) and in some cases convulsions. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content and therefore darker chocolate can be more dangerous. Please be aware that cocoa powder has a very high theobromine content and so if your dog ingests anything containing cocoa powder, we also recommend that you phone us for advice.

As a rough guide 1.25g dark chocolate/kg bodyweight or 9g milk chocolate/kg bodyweight could be toxic, and your pet will require treatment from our vets. We always advise phoning for advice if your pet has ingested chocolate, as one of our vets can work out the dose ingested and what treatment plan is required. If you phone us as soon as you notice that chocolate has been ingested, we have a better chance of successfully treating your pet.

Treatment involves inducing emesis (vomiting), and depending on the time passed since ingestion, they may require activated charcoal (which can help to prevent absorption of the toxins) and a drip to treat them further.

If you’ve made some stuffing for the Christmas turkey, there’s likely to be onions in the recipe. Onions can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but also a form of anaemia so always avoid giving your pet anything containing onions as a treat. If they do eat some onions, we recommend phoning us for advice.

With these cold and icy mornings, we’ll all be grabbing the anti-freeze sprays to try and clear the frost off the windscreens of our cars. Although this quick way of melting the ice is convenient for us, it can pose a risk to cats if they manage to lick ANY anti-freeze directly or walk over some a spillage and proceed to lick it when grooming themselves. It is also dangerous if a dog ingests anti-freeze, although it is less common for them to have the opportunity to ingest this toxin. Anti-freeze contains ethylene glycol, which when metabolised creates toxins which act on the tubular cells in kidneys. This can lead to Acute Kidney Failure. If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested anti-freeze, it is vital that you seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible- the quicker we start treatment the more chance we have of saving them. Sadly the prognosis for anti-freeze ingestion is guarded as toxicity can occur very quickly. It is best to keep pets away from any bottles that they may chew and keep them away when it has been sprayed.
Holly, Mistletoe, Poinsettia and Christmas trees-
Strangely, you may see that your pet is particularly interested in eating the festive decorations that you have arranged around your house. As well as making a mess, ingesting these plants can cause vomiting and diarrhoea so decorations should be kept out of reach of animals. Even more odd is the tendency to crunch through baubles- although this is rare, I have seen it happen and it can (unsurprisingly) cause oral wounds and damage to the intestinal tract if swallowed.

If you are concerned that your pet has eaten anything listed in this article or they have ingested something else you are unsure about, please ring for advice at Cape Vets on 01483 538990.

Catherine Hannah BVSc MRCVS

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