Christmas dangers for our pets - Winter hazards for pets

Nuestro equipo está formado por veterinarios, etólogos, y expertos en contenido sobre salud animal.

Do you really think your dog is completely safe at Christmas? There are several dangers you must be aware of. Today we are going to talk you about winter holiday hazards for pets.

The Christmas star plant or Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) presents a danger for our pets, especially in the case of ingestion. This plant contains a large number of chemicals but the most directly responsible for the poisoning of our pets is the euforbine.

The ingestion of this plant causes vomiting, diarrhea and swallowing problems, along with inflammation of the exposed areas such as the tongue, pharynx... In cats is also common to see a lot of salivation.

Christmas trees and pets

This plant is irritating, so we may also see cases of irritation by contact, both of the skin or mouth. This is particularly important in the case of households with cats, because our cats don't usually have problems to jump to the top or access the most unexpected sites and then rub their faces with anything they find.

This feline gesture can cause particles of pollen or some drops of plant sap to cause damage to the eyes, it can even cause corneal ulcers and, if we do not realize in time we might be faced with irreversible lesions with degrees of vision loss.

In cases of ingestion, the evolution is usually favorable, mainly in adult animals with proper treatment. However you may have a nervous case with tremors, delusions and comma in cases of intense ingestion, and we must add that there are fatal poisoning references in the bibliography.

This poisoning, as of today, cannot be treated with antidotes, so to deal with it we mainly need to avoid the intestinal absorption of a toxic substance, on the one hand, and to counteract the symptoms as they appear.

Holly, a natural poison for your pet

Another plant which is also typically used to decorate the houses during Christmas and that can also be dangerous for our pets is the holly tree (or Ilex aquifolium). Despite having thorns, the part that our pets eat is usually the berries, although the leaves are also toxic. A special care must be taken with the cubs, which in general show more curiosity and desire to explore the world than other animals.

The ingestion of these berries causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting along with an increase in the amount of excreted urine, sometimes accompanied by severe diarrhea. In cats, it can also appear a lot of salivation due to the bitter taste of the plant.

Dangers to pets at Christmas

If our pet has ingested a large quantity, the poisoning is considered very serious and potentially fatal, with nervous symptoms such as drowsiness, prostration and coma appearing. Despite the fact that the toxic and/or death doses always vary depending on the weight of the ingested, it is considered that approximately 20 holly berries would be sufficient to cause the death of a medium-sized dog.

My cat climbs up on the Christmas tree

Other potential hazards for our pets are articles of Christmas decoration, whether they are glass balls of the Christmas tree or dolls of the crib that can become a foreign body in the intestine of our pet. In the case we suspect he has ingested some kind of strange body, we must go to the vet, who will do a physical exam and probably employ x-rays to see whether or not there are an object and its location. Depending on the outcome of the situation, it will be more or less serious, and we will know if we can solve it by less invasive techniques such as endoscopy or more invasive techniques such as surgery.

In houses with cats, we must bear in mind their great ability to pull the Christmas tree to the ground. Each one of us knows our pets and their hobbies, so we must adapt the decoration of our home to their security.

At Christmas, a time of family and quite abundant meals, we also have to prevent access of our pets in the trash and monitor what we or the guest give them to eat (especially small ones) under the table...

How should I act before a possible case of poisoning?

Our first advice is always preventing. You come home; you find the disaster and your dog next to it. Put him in another room, in which he may not be able to continue eating the poison in question (in general, changing the room is faster than remove the source).

The following is notifying your veterinarian of the situation. He will ask you questions to assess the seriousness of the situation and will give you the appropriate recommendations for helping your pet while you're on the way to the hospital. Depending on the resources of his usual veterinary care center, it is possible that your veterinarian may send you to a reference center for an emergency room. If necessary, tell a friend, family member or call a taxi for a rapid movement.

Always call the center that you are going, informing them of the situation, the characteristics of your animal (species, age, size...) and the expected time of arrival so that they can be prepared to care of your pet.

Irene Vehí Pomés.