Local veterinarian Patti McCormack at Kreature Komforts Animal Hospital says it takes 24 to 48 hours for a pet’s digestive system to process the sweet candy, unless someone like her gets inside before then and clears it out the hard way.
With the holiday season upon us, chocolate and many other hazardous and toxic treats lie around the house without owners being aware that pets can get to them, which can lead to illness and sometimes death.
“People usually understand,” McCormack said, “but they usually think an accident’s not going to happen.”
Excessive feeding of holiday foods, including anything with butter, from the Thanksgiving or Christmas table can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and most commonly, pancreatitis in dogs, cats or ferrets, McCormack said. This can result in prolonged hospitalization for the animal.
Poultry meat could be a problem but raw bones are usually not a big deal, she added.
McCormack also advised that owners watch for Christmas decorations that animals might be tempted to play with and consume, such as hanging balls, strings or anything made of glass. Extension cords may be hazardous and can burn or electrocute the pet.
McCormack is also concerned about a much smaller material that must be removed from the reach of pets, an item usually found on pretty packages or hung on trees.
“The thing that I worry about most is tinsel,” she said, adding that she has even written an article for PetFolio that elaborates on the threat of tinsel.
“Cats have an almost (irresistible) desire to pull strings of tinsel off of branches and ingest them like gourmet pasta,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, tinsel is made of tough plastic strips that have a tendency to cause severe acute intestinal folds and blockages, leading to perforated bowel loops, peritonitis and death in a short time.”
The leftover wrapping paper bits, strings of Christmas lights and poorly wrapped candies can also create problems.
At Kreature Komforts on Tuesday, McCormack, a 20-year veterinarian, drew blood from a ferret that had a seizure on Monday. She said even ferrets can often have digestive problems.
“Ferrets are known for eating everything,” she said.
Birds can also be affected if they eat food particles from kitchen pots, which often contain Teflon, which is toxic to their systems.
Even beyond the traditional winter holidays, the popular Peeps marshmallow treats that are often found in Easter baskets can also harm pets, so owners are cautioned to mind their animals then, too.
McCormack said overall, she often doesn’t treat animals for many digestive problems.
“I think (owners) are getting better,” she said.