DON'T BE RUFF THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
While we deck the halls and stock up on winter goodies, all we want for the fluffier members of our family is to share the Christmas cheer with them. But beware – sharing is NOT always caring! Our Animal Guru (and veterinarian) Artem Cheprasov highlights some of the hidden dangers lurking beneath the Christmas tree to help you avoid a festive fiasco.
I love the holidays – the decorations, the happy people, and all that amazing food. But while growing up, I never really appreciated how many of the festive delights at home and around the table could have spelled disaster for my beloved pets. As a veterinarian, I now know that my animal friends had a lucky escape. So, to keep you and your furry family members cheerful this season, make sure to steer them away from the following Christmas treats.
Finally! The answer to why cats are so grumpy
Usually, when we give someone chocolate we want to wish them well, show them admiration or express our love. If you love your pet, though, you won’t be putting any chocolates in their Christmas stockings this year. Compounds called methylxanthines are found in chocolate and have the potential to kill your cat, and, more commonly, your dog. Each animal is unique: some pets will react far worse than others when all else is held equal, but you need to keep a particularly careful watch on Fido. Dogs adore treats for the same reason you do: their sweet taste. But with the sweet taste comes a very high price (far higher than the most expensive Swiss confectionary you can buy). Your pet will experience any combination of: vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive thirst, agitation and restlessness. Ultimately, chocolate consumption can lead to tremors, stumbling, seizures and death. Only immediate medical help can save your pet’s life from this sticky situation.
Tasty fact: The reason that vets see more dogs suffering from chocolate toxicosis as opposed to cats has to do with their sense of taste. They are far less likely to eat chocolate than dogs because they have no sweet taste buds. No wonder they’re always so cranky!
The not so sweet sugar
Now that you know not to feed a chocolate cupcake to your favorite pooch, don’t let Santa’s cheery grin catch you off guard: there may still be some dangerous things in your favourite sweets. And these candy threats aren’t as obvious as the colour and flavour of chocolate: they’re much more sinister. If those delicious-looking cupcakes that great aunt Betty is bringing to the Christmas gathering have xylitol in them, make sure that none of them ‘accidently’ plummet to the ground for your dog to get a hold of (no matter how bad they taste). Xylitol is an increasingly popular low calorie sugar substitute; it is used to sweeten up everything from gum to baked goods. It is a ‘natural sweetener’ that contains one third fewer calories than table sugar. So unless you’re told otherwise, your palate will be oblivious to your great aunt’s sugary sleight of hand. But if you don’t want her secret recipe burning a hole in your pocketbook then make sure you ask about its presence – and be even more certain that your dog avoids it: Xylitol can cause everything from vomiting and lethargy,
to disorientation and seizures, to liver failure. And the only way out of that cupcake catastrophe is an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
Not so sweet fact: While xylitol gives us some energy when we eat it, ingestion of xylitol by dogs actually leads to hypoglycemia, or abnormally low blood sugar levels. That’s because humans process xylitol just fine whereas dogs experience a massive surge in insulin secretion from their pancreas – a surge that causes their blood sugar to plummet to life-threatening levels.
Whether macadamia nuts are in your chocolate covered sweets or are left out as a snack for your guests, keep them out of paw’s reach from your dog. Something in these nuts, or in contaminants used during their processing, causes a dog’s back legs to become paralysed. Nobody knows exactly what the toxin is, but within around 12 hours of eating, your dog won’t be able to walk. For the next 12–48 hours, he will be in a great deal of distress and may suffer vomiting, stumbling, depression, high body temperature, and trembling. Thankfully, disastrous medical consequences from eating macadamia nuts don’t seem to be very common, and dogs normally get better within 48 hours (even without treatment). However, if trembling and a potentially high body temperature aren’t properly controlled, it can lead to more serious problems. So, if mutt chomps on some macadamia nuts, think about heading to the vet for a quick check-up.
Nutty fact: The way in which the mystery macadamia nut toxin causes back leg paralysis is strange. But what’s even weirder is that some dogs with the paralysis are able to walk – but aren’t able to get up from lying down. If they are picked up and put on their four paws then they will walk normally, but when they lie down they won’t be able to get up again (until you pick them up off the floor). This bizarre liftingwalking cycle will continue until the dog’s body is rid of the nut toxin.
Alcohol: “The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems” When Homer Simpson said these words, he got it right – especially for pets. In some cases alcohol can kill your pet; in other cases it may save their life. We all know that no holiday is complete without some alcohol and a drunk fatherin-law hitting on you/your partner. It’s OK to laugh at your inebriated kin-folk but it’s absolutely no laughing matter when it comes to giving your pet an alcoholic drink. Animals, by nature, are far more sensitive to alcohol than humans. A drunken dog or cat may look very funny but I can assure you they are suffering severe consequences. Consumption of alcohol can lead to vomiting, low blood pressure, stumbling, coma, and death. If your pet is given alcohol by a not-so-sober member of your family this Christmas, please make sure to rush your pet to the vet clinic ASAP.
Do-not-try-at-home fact: Although alcohol is very dangerous to your pets, in some cases a certain type of alcohol is actually given to pets who’ve been poisoned by drinking anti-freeze in order to save their life. Oh, the contradictory world of medicine! Have festive fun with your furry friend This holiday season, just stick with the tried and trusted and your pet will remain just as excited as ever before. Play fetch (if it’s not too cold where you live), get them a new toy to play with, or give them some dog biscuits (if they’re a dog). That way, both of you will be happy, and so will your vet.