Holiday Hazards to Your Pet

Holiday Hazard 1: Liquid Potpourri


Liquid Potpourri: While the scents of simmering potpourri can be delightful, ingestion can prove deadly, especially for cats. While any pet might be burned by heated oils, cats are particularly sensitive to the components called cationic detergents that are found in such products. If eaten, severe burns to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach may occur. Liquid potpourri may also cause severe irritation to the skin. If pets come into contact with it, their fur needs to be washed with liquid hand-washing soap until all traces of the oily residue are removed. Because it’s difficult to determine exactly how much cationic detergent is in liquid potpourris, suggest that clients avoid using them. For those clients who insist on scenting their homes, safer options include reed diffusers, plug-in air fresheners or scented candles.

Holiday Hazard 2: Chocolate


Chocolate: We’ve all heard that chocolate can be toxic to pets, but just how much is too much? Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine that’s highly toxic to dogs and cats. The darker or more concentrated the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. Therefore, the most dangerous chocolates are baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates. Dark chocolate covered espresso beans are particularly problematic since they may contain large amounts of both theobromine and caffeine. Milk chocolate contains lower amounts of theobromine.

Typically, animals need to consume at least 1 to 2 ounces of milk chocolate per kilogram of body weight before symptoms occur. The amount of chocolate in many baked goods, including cookies, cakes and candies is often relatively low and less frequently causes serious chocolate poisoning. However, significant gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea, are common following the ingestion of any chocolate product. Signs of chocolate or theobromine poisoning include salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, pacing, tachycardia, arrhythmias, tremors, and seizures. Ingestion of chocolate may also cause pancreatitis because of the high fat content.

Breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, miniature schnauzers, and Shetland sheepdogs, along with obese dogs and those on certain medications (such as potassium bromide, azathioprine, etc.) are more at risk for pancreatitis.

Holiday Hazard 3: Plants


Holiday plants: Curious pets often nibble on holiday plants. Though most are fairly safe, some can prove to be fatal, even when a very small amount is ingested.

Lilies: All flowers of the Lilium species, including Stargazer, Easter, Tiger, and other Asiatic lilies, are extremely poisonous to cats. Lilies are not toxic to dogs, and only self-limiting vomiting is expected if a dog ingest them. The ingestion of just one or two leaves or petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats. Even the pollen from these flowers is toxic to cats. Signs of kidney failure due to lily ingestion include vomiting, reduced appetite, increased or decreased urination, and lethargy. Kidney failure will begin within a few days of a cat eating lilies and, if not treated, the cat often dies. Any cat ingesting even small pieces of lily needs an immediate medical evaluation accompanied by intensive intravenous fluid therapy, blood work, and hospitalization.

In spite of their names, plants such as the Peace Lily, Lily of the Valley and the Calla Lily are not true lilies. While they may cause other issues (gastrointestinal distress, arrhythmias) for pets, they do not cause sudden kidney failure.

Poinsettias, Holly, and Mistletoe: Though traditionally thought of as quite toxic to pets, the potential for poisoning from poinsettias is overhyped. The milky sap of poinsettias contains irritating saponin-like (or detergent-like) properties. While exposure to the sap may cause irritation to the skin and mouth, along with vomiting and diarrhea, serious or fatal poisoning is highly unlikely. American mistletoe is commonly used in the U.S. as a Christmas time decoration, and is less toxic that its European counterpart. Ingestion of mistletoe most commonly causes self-limiting vomiting and mild neurological depression. Rarely, diarrhea and hypotension (low blood pressure) may also occur. Holly is also less toxic than previously touted. The most likely problem caused by ingesting holly is irritation to the gastrointestinal tract from the saponins (similar to poinsettias) and physical damage to the stomach and intestinal tract from the spiny points of the leaves. Though holly also contains methylxanthines (also found in chocolate and caffeine) and cyanogens, these chemicals rarely lead to poisoning from small ingestions of the plant. Additionally, large ingestions of holly may also cause a bowel obstruction because the leaves are difficult to digest.

Holiday Hazard 4: Ribbon and Tinsel


Ribbon and Tinsel: These shiny strings are simply too tempting for cats to resist. Though they’re not poisonous, ingesting these strings can result in a life-threatening linear foreign body, intestinal perforation, and septic peritonitis (infection in the abdominal cavity). A linear foreign body occurs when pets swallow something stringy, like ribbon, yarn, floss, or cassette tape ribbon. The stringy item wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors in the stomach and is unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string slowly saws through the intestinal tissue, resulting in severe damage and possible rupture of the pet’s intestinal tract.

The treatment for linear foreign bodies involves complex and expensive abdominal surgery, hospitalization, antibiotics, and pain management. Even after surgical removal, some pets may not survive. If a pet does ingest a long piece of tinsel, ribbon, thread, or string, it is advisable to take the pet immediately to a clinic or hospital for an examination. Most importantly, if a pet owner reports seeing a string hanging from the pet’s mouth or anus, they should not attempt to pull it out themselves and risk further damage. Only trained veterinary professionals should remove such strings.

If you think your pet has been poisoned, call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital at (520) 624-6100.  If it is a holiday, weekend, of after-hours, contact Southern AZ Veterinary Emergency Center at (520) 888-3177.

ASPCA Poison Control = (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee willy be applied to your credit card.

Pet Poison Helpline = (800) 213-6680 $38 per incident fee applies


Q & A on Ebola in Pets


Can dogs get infected or sick with Ebola?
At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats
becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola
to people or other animals. Even in areas in Africa where
Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and
cats becoming sick with Ebola. There is limited evidence
that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no
evidence that they develop disease.

Here in the United States, are our dogs and
cats at risk of becoming sick with Ebola?
The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in
the United States is very low. Therefore, the risk to pets is
also very low, as they would have to come into contact with
blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. Even in areas
in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports
of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.

Can I get Ebola from my dog or cat?
At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats
becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to
people or animals. The chances of a dog or cat being exposed
to Ebola virus in the United States is very low as the animal
would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids
of a symptomatic person sick with Ebola.

Can my pet’s body, fur, or paws
spread Ebola to a person?
We do not yet know whether or not a pet’s body, paws, or fur
can pick up and spread Ebola to people or other animals. It
is important to keep people and animals away from blood or
body fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection.

What if there is a pet in the home
of an Ebola patient?
CDC recommends that public health officials in
collaboration with a veterinarian evaluate the pet’s risk
of exposure to the virus (close contact or exposure to
blood or body fluids of an Ebola patient). Based on this
evaluation as well as the specific situation, local and state
human and animal health officials will determine how the
pet should be handled.

Can I get my dog or cat tested for Ebola?
There would not be any reason to test a dog or cat for Ebola
if there was no exposure to a person infected with Ebola.
Currently, routine testing for Ebola is not available for pets.

What are the requirements for
bringing pets or other animals into the
United States from West Africa?
CDC regulations require that dogs and cats imported into
the United States be healthy. Dogs must be vaccinated
against rabies before arrival into the United States. Monkeys
and African rodents are not allowed to be imported as pets
under any circumstances.
Each state and U.S. Territory has its own rules for
pet ownership and importation, and these rules may
be different from federal regulations. Airlines may have
additional requirements.

Can monkeys spread Ebola?
Yes, monkeys are at risk for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola
infection in monkeys include fever, decreased appetite,
and sudden death. Monkeys should not be allowed to
have contact with anyone who may have Ebola. Healthy
monkeys already living in the United States and without
exposure to a person infected with Ebola are not at risk for
spreading Ebola.

Can bats spread Ebola?
Fruit bats in Africa are considered to be a natural reservoir
for Ebola. Bats in North America are not known to carry
Ebola and so CDC considers the risk of an Ebola outbreak
from bats occurring in the United States to be very low.
However, bats are known to carry rabies and other diseases
here in the United States. To reduce the risk of disease
transmission, never attempt to touch a bat, living or dead.

Where can I find more information
about Ebola and pet dogs and cats?
CDC is currently working with the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, the American Veterinary Medical Association,
and many other partners to develop additional guidance for
the U.S. pet population.

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association and

Airline Travel with Your Cat

Cats travel on planes every day. Although some unfortunate events may occur on rare occasions, these can be usually avoided if some simple precautions are followed. It is impossible to overemphasize the need to consult with the airline well in advance of your trip. This is essential if you hope to avoid last minute problems. Here are some basic tips for airline travel with your cat:

Have your cat examined by your veterinarian in advance of the trip, especially if it has been more than a few months since the last checkup. This is especially important for senior cats. Travel by plane can pose a risk for cats with pre-existing medical problems, such as heart or kidney disease. Also, some short-faced breeds of cats such as Himalayans, Persians and Exotic Shorthairs do not travel well in certain situations.

Be sure that you have written proof of current vaccinations and a valid health certificate. These cannot be obtained “after the fact.”  You must be able to present them on demand. Most countries now require an international health certificate that may not be available from your veterinarian, or that may require a signature from a government official.

Take direct flights if possible, and try to avoid connections and layovers. Sometimes, this is easier to achieve if the trip is planned during the week. The well-being of your cat could be a source of concern if the baggage connection between flights should be missed.

Some airlines will allow one pet in coach and one in first class, with some provisions. To find out whether there are limitations on the number of animals present in the cabin, you should advise the airline if you plan to travel with your cat in the cabin. Check on the cage dimensions and requirements so that there won’t be a problem stowing the carrier beneath the seat.

You should outfit your cat with an identification tag attached to a collar or harness.  The tag should contain contact information in case the cat escapes from its carrier.  You should include a leash for secure restraint in case the cat needs to be taken out of the carrier.

Take a supply of fresh drinking water and water bowls to provide your cat with fresh water during layovers and waits. There are many collapsible water and food containers available that will often fit in your cat’s carry-on carrier.

What should I do at the time of the flight?

Do not tranquilize or sedate your cat unless you have discussed this with your veterinarian. Cats do not tolerate some medicines well and giving over-the-counter or prescription pharmaceuticals can be dangerous or fatal.

Make sure that the carrier has permanent identification, including your name, phone number, flight schedule, destination, and a phone number at the point of destination.

Feed your cat before you leave home. Water should be available at all times, including inside the carrier. If you have a senior cat with marginal kidney function, it is important that it not be deprived of water, even for a few hours. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Try to secure a direct flight with no or minimal layovers. Your cat should have fresh water after arrival.

Try to familiarize your cat with the travel carrier before you leave for your trip. Give your cat access to the carrier both with the door open and closed. This will help eliminate some of your cat’s stress during the trip.

Advance planning is the key to a safe trip with your pet!  Safe Travels!

What is Bloat in Dogs?


What is GDV?

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening disorder most commonly seen in large, deep-chested dogs. The term refers to a gas-filled stomach (bloat) that then twists upon itself. It is a medical emergency that requires surgery to correct.

What causes the condition?

The exact cause is still unknown. The most common history is a large breed dog that eats or drinks rapidly and then exercises. In recent studies, stress was found to be a contributing factor to GDV. Dogs that were more relaxed and calm were at less risk of developing GDV than dogs described as “hyper” or “fearful.” Sometimes the condition progresses no further than simple gastric dilatation (bloat) but in other instances the huge, gas-filled stomach twists upon itself so that both entrance and exit to the stomach become occluded.

Is GDV serious?

Yes. This is probably one of the most serious non-traumatic conditions seen in dogs. Immediate veterinary attention is required to save the dog’s life.

Are some dogs more prone than others?

Yes, statistically we know that large, deep chested breeds are more prone to GDV. These include Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs. Most commonly the condition occurs two to three hours after eating a large meal.

Additional facts about GDV:

Gastric dilatation (bloat), usually without volvulus (twist), occasionally occurs in elderly small dogs.

The distended stomach pushes the posterior rib cage so that the dog appears swollen or “bloated”. This is most obvious on the left side and gentle tapping of the swelling just behind the last rib often produces hollow, drum-like sounds.  The enlarged stomach presses on the diaphragm and breathing becomes labored.

The swollen stomach also presses on the larger blood vessels in the abdomen and circulation is seriously compromised, resulting in systemic shock.

Ultimately, the dog collapses and the huge size of the abdomen can be seen as the dog lies on its side.


What can be done?

Veterinary assistance must be sought immediately!

It is imperative that the pressure on the stomach wall and internal organs is reduced as soon as possible. The veterinarian may first attempt to pass a stomach tube. If this is not possible due to twisting of the stomach, a large bore needle may be passed through the skin into the stomach to relieve the pressure in the stomach.

Shock treatment with administering intravenous fluids and medications will begin immediately.

Once the patient has been stabilized, the stomach must be returned to its proper position. This involves major abdominal surgery and may be delayed until the patient is able to undergo anesthesia.


Can the condition be prevented?

Gastropexy (surgical attachment of stomach to the body wall) is the most effective means of prevention. In high-risk breeds, some veterinarians recommend prophylactic gastropexy. This does not prevent dilatation (bloat) but does prevent twisting (volvulus) in the majority of cases.

Careful attention to diet, feeding and exercise regimens may help to prevent gastric dilatation.

Please do not hesitate to discuss any concerns you have regarding this serious condition with your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital!

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license.