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Top 5 most common holiday calls to Pet Poison Helpline in 2009

Common holiday items may cause problems for curious pets

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I asked veterinary specialists Ahna Brutlag DVM and Justine A. Lee DVM DACVECC to list the top 5 pet safety and poisoning questions they have received during the holidays at Pet Poison Helpline. Here is their list of calls received so far during the 2009 holiday season.

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1. Chocolate

Chunks of chocolate
© Getty Images / Mark Weiss

While there are other holidays that are possibly more "chocolate-centric" such as Valentine's Day and Easter, chocolate is a common Christmas and Chanukah gift, too. Gifts under the tree or left out on the table are easy prey for curious pets, especially dogs.

Pets can sniff out goodies hidden behind festive wrapping paper quickly. Tearing packages open to consume the contents isn't a problem, either. Learn what makes chocolate toxic to pets, how much (and what kind of chocolate) is toxic, the signs seen, and how this is treated.

2. Poinsettias

Poinsettia Flower - credit: CodyR on Flickr
© CodyR on Flickr
The beautiful and bright poinsettia plant gets most of the attention for toxicity concerns around the holidays, but it is actually not as poisonous as people may think. In fact, it is classified as only "mildly" toxic, usually causing nausea and vomiting if consumed. Other plants, such as holly, mistletoe and lilies are considerably more toxic.

3. Foods Containing Raisins

Squared Raisin Spiral Cake Circle by erix! on Flickr
by erix! on Flickr
Originally thought to be an urban legend, it is now known that raisins and grapes are indeed toxic to dogs. The type of raisin or grape and the type of dog doesn't seem to matter, and the toxic amount may be a small serving to several ounces. Many types of holiday sweet breads and rolls contain raisins, and it doesn't take many to be toxic for dogs.

4. Holly and Mistletoe Plants

Holly Berries - image credit: AlexHern on Flickr
© AlexHern on Flickr
Perhaps not as commonly seen as the Poinsettia, both Holly and particularly Mistletoe are considered to be "moderately to severely" toxic. Please call your veterinarian or poison control center immediately if your pet has consumed any of these plants.

5. DuraFlame logs

Fireplace by Rick on Flickr
by Rick on Flickr
According to the DuraFlame site FAQ, their fire logs and fire starters are made of "sawdust, agricultural fibers and non-petroleum renewable waxes and oils." They are not known to be chemically toxic to pets, but the sawdust is not digestible. Depending on how much of the log your pet consumes, this cause intestinal blockage or related problems. Please contact your veterinarian or pet poison control center if your pet has consumed a fire log.

6. About Pet Poison Helpline

Courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline

The Pet Poison Helpline is a team of veterinarians and veterinary specialists who are "on call" for pet owners and veterinarians to consult with about poisonings or potential poisonings in pets. They are available 24/7 and cover a wide range of species.

Thanks to Ahna Brutlag DVM and Justine A. Lee DVM DACVECC for assistance with this article.

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