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‘Tis the Season for Toxicities! Fa la la la la…

Posted by Jessica Gramlich on Dec 16, 2015 10:04:00 AM

VP-festivePet Toxicity Dangers- December Edition

There are many household toxins that we are aware of, but during the holidays there are often things around the house that many pet owners do not realize can be a hazard to their pets. Let’s review some holiday hazards!


Many goodies contain chocolate. The effects of chocolate consumption include:
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Hyperactivity
• Tremors
• Seizures
• Tachycardia
• Arrhythmia
• Death in severe cases

The toxicity effects are directly related to the levels of methylxanthines.
20 mg/kg are mild effects, usually vomiting or diarrhea.
40mg/kg level we get to restlessness, hyperactivity.
50 mg/kg can bring on cardiac issues.
Ingestion of 60 mg/kg lead to seizures.
The LD50, lethal dose in 50% of the dogs is 100mg/kg.


Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in food products, especially sugarless gums or baked goods. It causes insulin release which causes hypoglycemia. It can also cause fulminant liver failure.
• Vomiting
• Collapse
• Ataxia
• Hypokalemia
• Hypotension
• Hypoglycemia/seizures
• Liver failure 24-48 hours after ingestion
• Coma or Death

Toxic levels:
• 0.1g/kg causes hypoglycemia
• >0.5g/kg considered hepatotoxic
• Between 0.3g-1g can be found in a stick of gum
• A 10 kg dog would need to eat approx. 1-3 sticks of gum for clinical signs to develop

Tinsel, ribbons, and ornaments

Many pets are intrigued by the light and tinsel on the tree. Foreign body ingestion can be common this time of year. Also biting the cords around the tree can cause electrocution. Remind your clients to watch their pets around the tree and keep hazards out of reach.

Festive plants

These toxicities can range from a little stomach upset to severe heartbreak.

• Poinsettias - they have a bad reputation, but are usually only mildly toxic. They may cause some gastrointestinal upset if ingested.
• Lilies - some lilies are extremely toxic and cause acute renal failure if ingested. Remind your clients around the holidays and especially around Easter NOT to bring lilies into the house!
• Holly - may cause intense vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
• Mistletoe - may cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, and erratic behavior.
• Pine needles - can be irritating to the stomach and intestine and cause vomiting and diarrhea. Christmas trees are sometimes sprayed with flame retardant which can be toxic to pets if ingested.

The Delicious Meals

Pancreatitis is always a concern around the holidays. As tempting as it is to give pets the leftovers, remind your clients not to do this!
It is helpful to have a handout on Pet Toxins to remind your clients what to watch out for during the holidays.

For more information on toxic plants for your patients, visit the toxic plant guide at:

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Topics: Toxicity

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