TALKING PETS: Keep the sugar plum fairies away

December 3, 2010 

It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, and also time to remember that a house at holiday times can be a minefield for pets.

I remember one Christmas when I made Peanut Blossoms, the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses. I had some leftover kisses and put them in a bowl, which I then set on an end table in the living room.

We had a shepherd lab named Muddy Waters at the time. This dog was so good, you could set a plate of food on the coffee table and he would not touch it. But the kisses proved to be too much temptation, and while we were gone to dinner he ate a bunch of them.

I was worried sick that he would become ill, but luckily he was a 90-pound dog and the kisses were milk chocolate, so he just pooped foil for about three days.

It may seem funny now, but holiday hazards are no joke. Here are a few to avoid:

* Chocolate: A toxic dose of pure chocolate is about 2 ounces of chocolate per pound of dog. Pure chocolate includes most dark chocolates and baking chocolate (the worst). Signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat and seizures. It can result in death, so keep that chocolate out of the pup’s reach, and if he or she eats a significant amount, contact your vet ASAP or take the dog to the animal ER.

* Raisins (and grapes): Most of this information came in a newsletter from DeSoto Animal Clinic, and Dr. James Kanzler there also told me to mention grapes. He had a patient who had eaten raisins recently and his research on that toxicity also warned against grapes. So no Waldorf Salad for your pets.

* Sugar-free goodies: Xylitol is a sweetener found in many sugar-free treats. Significant amounts of xylitol can cause low blood sugar, signs of which are sleepiness, stupor, muscle twitching, seizures and coma. Keep these away from dogs, too.

* Table scraps: A lot of holiday foods are high in fats and sugars and while they taste great, they can be harmful to pets. Turkey is not very digestible for pets because people tend to give them the skin and fatty dark meat. If you want your pets to share in holiday feasting, get them a can of turkey and bacon pet food.

* Toxic plants: Toxicity ranges from mild to extreme in seasonal plants such as poinsettia, holly and mistletoe. Keep them out of reach, as well.

M.K. Means, who also writes the Talking Pets blog on Bradenton.com, can be reached at 745-7054.

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