Our pets love to take advantage of the change in routine that accompanies the hustle and bustle of special events. In fact, holidays are a prime time for veterinary emergencies.
While we’re busy entertaining guests, our cats and dogs seize the opportunity to eat up any leftover foods or items we may have accidentally left behind. Whether it’s decorations that are left aside during event planning, or visitors sharing food off their plates, it’s important to keep an eye out for what your cat or dog is sneakily putting in their mouth.
But, no matter how hard you try, your family pet may eat something that could be dangerous. And, when you’re busy hosting a family gathering, you may miss the signs and symptoms that something has gone wrong.
So, how can you keep your pets stay safe during the upcoming Easter weekend? We’ve compiled information on the most common holiday emergencies. Check out the bite sized tips below, and learn to recognize the most common holiday dangers.
How do I know if my pet has ingested something dangerous?
The two most common holiday dangers facing our pets include:
- Foreign Body Obstructions; and
- Ingesting Toxins
What are foreign body obstructions?
A foreign body obstruction refers to the accidental ingestion of any item other than the pet food we supply for our furry friends.
Cats are especially prone to eating string, thread, ribbon, paper, hair ties, plants, and small toys.
Similarly, dogs will accidentally swallow paper, socks and other articles of clothing, sticks, rocks, food wrappers, bones, small toys, and more.
During busy holiday seasons, it’s not uncommon for cats and dogs to get into the garbage – whether that garbage is already in the trash bin, or accidentally left out in the open.
How do I know if my pet ingested a foreign body?
Some of the most common symptoms of foreign body obstructions in cats and dogs include:
- Straining to defecate or producing small amounts of feces
- Decreased appetite or anorexia
- Changes in behaviour such as biting or growling when picked up or handled around the abdomen
- Pawing at the face or mouth if there is string or thread that has become wrapped around the base of the tongue
- Abdominal tenderness or pain
Diagnosis and treatment of foreign body obstructions
In order to determine whether or not a foreign body obstruction exists, your veterinarian and veterinary care team will utilize diagnostic tools such as: radiographs (x-rays), blood work, or ultrasonography. Additional diagnostic tests, such as a urine analysis, may also be ordered to rule out other potential causes of illness.
When it comes to treating foreign body obstructions in cats and dogs, timing is crucial.
If detected early enough, your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting to help quickly remove the body from your pet.
Unfortunately, if the foreign object has left the stomach, vomiting will not help to remove the object. Depending on where the object is within your pet’s digestive system, an endoscopy procedure may help to retrieve the swallowed item.
If the vomiting or an endoscopy procedure are not an option, than your veterinarian will likely recommend an exploratory laparotomy surgery to remove the object and restore blood supply to the intestinal and stomach tissue.
Treating and caring for patients with foreign body obstructions is complex and case specific. Click here to learn more about foreign body obstructions in cats. For more information about foreign body obstructions in dogs, please see this pet health article on the topic.
Common Animal Toxins
In addition to foreign body obstructions, pets can also ingest something toxic, such as certain plants, chocolate, nuts, garlic, etc. When it comes to toxicities, there are a number of factors to consider.
The toxin ingested will often dictate the symptoms experienced by your pet, as well as the medical protocol we may follow once you arrive at the hospital.
Some common toxins that cats and dogs may ingest include:
Chocolate: specifically dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate
Caffeine: including foods, candy, chocolate, and beverages that contain caffeine
Sugar-Free Snacks: sugar-free gum, candy, and snacks may include a very toxic sweetener called xylitol
Grapes and Raisins: these sugary fruits are especially dangerous to dogs, and unfortunately there isn’t a universal dosage for just how many grapes or raisins lead to kidney failure
Garlic, Chives and Leeks: these popular cooking ingredients can pose serious health problems for your dog. One complication of this specific toxicity stems from the fact that symptoms of illness may appear days after consumption
Essential Oils and Potpourri: we all want our house to smell nice and inviting when we are hosting guests, but essential oils and liquid potpourris contain chemicals that are rapidly absorbed orally or through the skin. These chemicals are very dangerous to cats, as they lack the liver enzymes required in metabolizing the chemical compounds
Acetaminophen: this popular over-the-counter medication gets a lot of extra use during busy holiday seasons. Unfortunately, acetaminophen is highly toxic to both dogs and cats. In fact, cats have a genetic deficiency that makes them even more vulnerable to acetaminophen toxicity.
How do I know if my pet ingested something toxic?
Since symptoms of toxicities can take several hours or days to appear, it is important to recognize any strange or newly occurring symptoms, such as:
- A sudden lack energy (lethargy)
- Pain or tenderness
- An increase or decrease in urination
- Excessive drinking
- Restlessness or an inability to settle
- Nausea (excessive drooling)
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Treating toxicities in dogs and cats
Although the medical protocol for treating cases of toxicity depends greatly on the toxin ingested, time is always of the essence. If you are able to catch your pets eating one of these common household toxins, bring your pet to your nearest emergency animal hospital as soon as possible. Depending on the toxin, your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting to quickly remove the toxin from your pet’s system. When seeking medical attention, we recommend bringing the packaging with you. This will help your veterinarian understand how much of the toxic substance was ingested, and how best to respond to the situation.
While inducing vomiting isn’t always an option, treating your pet quickly using other interventions such as IV fluids, administering charcoal, or hospitalization, are key in keeping your pet safe and healthy.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is another great resource for pet owners. Like Walker Road Animal Hospital, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is also open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call 888-426-4435.
The bottom line
While veterinary emergencies can happen anytime, holidays are especially dangerous to our curious and fun-loving pets.
If you suspect your pet may have eaten something dangerous, or if you notice and new symptoms or changes in behaviour, don’t wait!
Time is crucial in treating both foreign body obstructions and ingesting toxins. Call Walker Road Animal Hospital at 519-972-9000, or visit our brand new facility at 3577 Walker Road.
Stay safe and enjoy your holiday weekend!