December Mews-Letter (Part 2)


December Mews-Letter

Holiday Gatherings and House Guests

The holidays and New Year is a wonderful time to have friends and family gather and celebrate. Parties, dinners, and house guests can cause stress to your pets and interactions with people/guests who are not familiar with pets can also lead to stressful and scary situations. For most pets, being left in a quiet, safe, room with their bedding and treats is much more relaxing than mingling at the neighborhood holiday bash. The frequent openings and closing of doors can increase the risk of escaped pets and repeated doorbell chimes/rings can also increase their blood pressure (and yours if your dog is barking for 45 minutes!). Leaving a note on the door to come on in or assigning a family member door duty can reduce the triggers for stress barking/hiding/unwanted behaviors. Leaving your pet in a secured room away from the party also insures that they will be unable to be a taste tester for the grapes on the wine and cheese plate, ham, or chocolate fondue. As always, make sure your pet’s identification is updated so in the event of an escape they can be easily reunited with you. House guests and visiting family members pose a whole new dimension of fun and challenges for you and your pet. If your houseguests do not live with pets they may be unaware of animal body language and be “house smart” to your pet’s wiley ways.

Prescription Human Medications

Leaving prescription pills or pill bottles on the counter may be fine in their home but in a home with a large dog or cats that might play hockey with them may results in a trip to the emergency room. Non pet owners may not be aware that grapes are toxic to dogs and feed them as treats!

Prescription Veterinary Medications

If there are any four legged house guests, make sure their food and medications (chewable pain medications etc) are secured in a location where your pet can’t get to them. (Imagine a backpack with dog food, chewable beef flavored non steroidal anti-inflammatory for a Great Dane cousin and your jack Russell terrier eating the week’s supply)

Children and Pets

Do not assume that all children know how to properly interact with pets Actually don’t assume that people know how to properly interact with pets! Children are scary! They are loud, unpredictable, and high pitched and in an instant they can fall on the floor and have a tantrum! Some people have never had pets! Please talk to family members about proper interaction with pets and explain your pet’s body language to them. A tucked tail means a dog is nervous, excessive yawning can indicate discomfort in the dog, flat ears in a cat can mean they are displeased. Set expectations such as, “ Bovie is an older dog and has arthritis. He is very sweet but a child falling or hitting his hips may cause him pain” or “ Zander is a very sweet boy and loves children but please don’t play tug of war with him, he may accidentally bite your hand when he tries to get the toy.” You can also set rules such as no table food/treats for the pet, no children around the animal’s feeding bowls etc. Don’t forget to warn house guest of any quirks your pet may have. For example, Zander loves to eat socks! Dr. Ai typically warns guests that he will eat any socks on dressers or floors and will warn guests of his sock addiction. We have also attached some handouts to help with reading animal body language and proper interaction with pets for children. Open communication about expectations can help avoid a lot of stress!

If you are the house guest

If you and your pet are travelling to another home make sure to pack all of your pet’s medications and food. Changing foods suddenly can cause vomiting and diarrhea and certainly make things unpleasant for you, your guest, and your host! Make sure to ask if there are areas in the house where your pet should not go or if there can be dangers to your pet. Some people use mouse traps or put out rat poison, they may not think to warn you of these things in the garage etc. Travelling with a bed or blanket from home can also be comforting to your pet. Placing these objects inside the home or hotel prior to bringing your pet in can make it less stressful for your pet. If your pet is crate trained, the crate can be a safe haven and something familiar to reduce your pet’s stress.

Holiday Safety

Tinsel/popcorn garland

 What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if eaten. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat and dog’s intestinal tract if eaten. It can cause a linear foreign body which can cause rupture of the small intestines. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

Christmas tree

Some cats and dogs will try to climb up Christmas trees. If you have a climber, you may need to anchor the tree. Make sure lights are unplugged when you are not home. Christmas tree + plugged in Christmas lights + kitty = trouble like electric fires!


Consider going flameless this year and purchasing LED candles. They even flicker! One of the most common causes of house fires during the holidays is due to forgotten lit candles or pet vs candle incidences. Playing with flames can lead to burns and a knocked over candle can have catastrophic results.

Wires/ lights

Do you have a cat or dog that likes to chew? Be careful for signs of chewing or fraying on any electrical cords in the home. Christmas lights and decorations give your pet amply opportunity to burn their mouth and tongue or worse electrocute them enough to cause non-heart disease related lung fluid or death.


Similar to tinsel, eating string or ribbon can cause a life threatening obstruction of the small intestines and rupture!


Glass ornaments are shiny and can be an enticing object to bat off the tree. Broken ornaments can cause lacerations. If it’s a homemade ornament, the recipe for the dough/clay etc may have enough salt to cause salt toxicity if eaten. Make sure your ornaments are toxin free and shatter free.

Ornament hooks

These things can become deadly foreign bodies if eaten or can be hooked through the skin or lips. Make sure you keep track of the ornament hooks and if you are using them, make sure they are securely on the ornament and tree.


Some plants can cause stomach irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Christmas tree pine needles, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias can all cause some degree of irritation. If you have a cat or dog that likes to nibble on plants, consider an artificial version of these plants.

Snow Globes

Some imported snow globes have been found to have anti-freeze in it. If a snow globes or leaks, please do not allow your pets to lick or drink it. Antifreeze can be a fatal kidney toxin. You can read about it in the next section too!

Holiday Toxins

Bread Dough/Cinnamon Rolls/anything with raw yeast: ( tested by Zander)

  1. Ingestion of bread dough can cause GI obstruction, vomiting, diarrhea, blindness,
  2. Bread dough will rapidly rise in the warm environment of the stomach and produce
  3. Ethanol is rapidly absorbed from the GI tract causing the clinical signs.
  4. Prognosis is good if treated immediately by a veterinarian. Treatment often includes inducing vomiting and supportive care.

Cleaning agents and liquid Potpourri:

  1. There are many categories of cleaning agents including caustic agents alkaline or acidic), irritants, Alkalis and acids.
  2. Clinical signs can include skin irritation, oral ulcerations ( from grooming or ingestion), corneal erosions and ulcer, irritation of the eye, excessive salivation, vomiting, bloody vomit and diarrhea, and difficult breathing due to inflammation of the upper airway.
  3. There may be long term damage to the esophagus if the materials were ingested causing strictures or perforations.
  4. If inhaled long term damage to the lungs is also possible. Cats with asthma can have an asthma attack from scented candles or potpourri.
  5. Prognosis depends on what organs and what quantity of agents the pet was exposed to.

Chocolate( tested by zander):

  1. Theobromine and caffeine are the main toxic components in chocolate (also coffee beans and cocoa beans).
  2. The amounts of each vary depending on the type of chocolate (i.e. milk, unsweetened baking, semisweet chocolates).
  3. The lethal dose ranges between 100-200mg/kg; although, moderate signs can be seen with ingestion of as little as 20mg/kg.
  4. Treatment may be indicated when ingestion approaches 20mg/kg. Both dogs and cats are susceptible.
  5. The main signs referable to the heart and central nervous system, Nervousness/anxiety, excitable behavior, tremors, seizures and coma due to CNS stimulation. High blood pressure, a slowed or increased heart rate and heart arrhythmias (which may be manifested as disorientation, weakness, collapse and loss of consciousness) result from the cardiac/heart effects.
  6. Caffeine causes increased respiratory/breathing rate and increased body temperature (hyperthermia).
  7. The most important things for owners to do when a pet ingests chocolate (coffee beans or cocoa beans) are: to estimate how much was ingested, to bring packaging to the hospital so the type(s) of chocolate and relative doses of the toxic ingredients can be identified/estimated and to not delay the trip to the hospital. It can not be overemphasized that early identification and presentation to the hospital yield the best outcomes.
  8. Prognosis if good if the patient presents immediately to a veterinarian.

Cigarette Ingestion:

  1. Tobacco products contain nicotine. Cigarettes and cigars have varying degrees of nicotine in them. The butts themselves contain 25% of the total nicotine.
  2. Clinical signs develop quickly ( 15 minutes to 30 minutes) and include hyperexcitablity, hyper-salivation, fast breathing, diarrhea, and vomiting. Muscle weakness, twitching, collapse, coma, and death can occur at high enough doses.
  3. Animals seen ingesting any tabacoo products or even several cigarette or cigar butts should present to a veterinarian for medical care and decontamination.

Grapes and raisins: ( tested by Zander)

  1. Very little is known regarding grape toxicity in dogs.
  2. It causes acute renal failure in dogs and the pathphysiology is unclear.
  3. Toxic dose range is 14 to 57g/kg but each dog can have a different level of sensitivity to the toxin.
  4. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Can come on in 3 days to several weeks.
  5. Blood work changes include azotemia, hypercalcemia, and hyperphosphatemia. Can lead to oliguria and anuria. On histopathology can see acute renal tubular necrosis.
  6. Negative prognostic indicators include decreased urine out put, ataxia( trouble walking), weakness, increased initial total calcium, increase in total calcium, increased calcium phosphorous ratio at time of presentation or increase in calcium phosphorus ratio.

Prognosis varies on when the patients presents to a veterinarian and the degree of sensitivity to grapes and raisins per patient.

Ibuprofen Ingestion: ( Advil):

  1. Ibuprofen is an over the counter non steroidal anti-inflammatory that is commonly used for aches and pains in people.
  2. Ingestion of even small amounts of ibuprofen can lead to vomiting and diarrhea as well as gastric ulceration, bleeding and perforation. At high enough concentrations it can cause permanent kidney damage and affect the central nervous system leading to seizures, inability to walk, coma and death.
  3. Cats are twice as sensitive as dogs are due to a lack of an enzyme to help digest the medication.
  4. Treatment of the patient includes decontamination through emesis, prevention and treatment of gastric ulceration, renal failure and CNS effects. Common therapies will include inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal, Gi protectants such as omeprazole, carafate, misoprostol, and IV fluid therapy. Blood will also be monitored to check kidney function as well.
  5. The prognosis is good if the patient is treated immediately after ingestion.


  1. Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar alcohol found in many sugar free gum baked goods, desserts and toothpaste
  2. Clinical signs include vomiting, lethargy, hypoglycemic or low blood sugar episode and fulminate liver failure.
  3. Due to the idiosyncratic nature of xylitol ingestion immediate presentation to the veterinarian for decontamination and observation is recommended for favorable outcome.


Hampden Veterinary - 9 Commerce Court Hampden Me 04444