Animal Care Clinic Tips

Dec 18, 2012 3:56 PM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP

Animal Care Clinic: Poinsettias, chocolate and your pets

(MyPetMD) During the festive season, we cannot get enough of all the good things that come with this time of year. Poinsettias and chocolate are two of these good things, but are they really so good when it comes to our pets?

Poinsettia, the common household Christmas plant, was once considered to be extremely toxic to animals. Luckily, it is now known to be of relatively low toxicity to animals. The plants can affect all animals including pets and livestock but household pets are more commonly affected because they are more likely to come into contact with the plant.

All parts of the plant may be toxic. The milky sap of the poinsettia is irritating to skin, eyes and mucus membranes. Ingestion and/or skin and mouth contact with the milky sap is likely to cause irritation, discomfort, rash and stomach upset. Nausea and vomiting may occur if large quantities are consumed. Pets may show head-shaking, salivation, and pawing or rubbing at the mouth or eyes. Washing the sap off the animal will prevent further ingestion. You should call us if your pet's eyes are affected and/or if signs of the toxicity do not resolve within a few minutes.

Chocolate, on the other hand can be quite toxic to animals and is dose or quantity dependent. A small dog with an overly sweet tooth can be at risk for chocolate toxicity if he/she gets into your holiday stash of chocolate.

Signs of chocolate toxicity are similar to a caffeine overdose since they are similar compounds. Watch for restlessness and hyperactivity. Severe toxicity will include extreme hyperactivity, muscle twitching, and spastic contraction of limbs and eventual seizures. Signs will usually occur within three to eight hours of ingestion of a large quantity of chocolate.

Keep chocolate away from pets at all times, and call us immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested a large quantity of your favorite holiday treat.

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