2010-11-18 / Pet Tales

Protect your pet

An ER vet’s guide to keeping your pet safe

As pets take on a more important role in our lives, they are increasingly a part of our holiday festivities.

I love the holidays, but emergency veterinarians like me definitely see more pets in our ERs as people cook, bake and visit their way toward the new year. I hope this information helps keep your pet safe during all the fun.

.. Plants: Some folks think that their pet being anywhere within a three-block radius of a poinsettia will cause Mr. Whiskers to spontaneously explode, but you can rest assured that this is not the case. Yes, if eaten in sufficient quantities, the poinsettia can cause a mild and usually temporary stomach and intestinal upset, but this is more of a risk for your carpet than it is for your pet.

On the other hand, among the plants that do pose a hazard are mistletoe (causes more serious gastrointestinal and potential heart issues) and lilies (which can cause lethal kidney failure in cats at very small amounts).

.. Chocolate: If your 95-pound Great Pyrenees eats two M&M’s, he’s going to be fine, trust me. It takes quite a bit of milk chocolate to cause problems — somewhere around one pound of chocolate for 30 to 40 pounds of body weight.

Remember, though, that dark chocolate is worse, and baking chocolate is even more toxic than dark chocolate. So if you are cooking with chocolate this season, save it for the revelers and not the retrievers.

.. Other food: Vomiting and diarrhea are common after eating too much food that’s meant to be served to human guests, and this can trigger a serious condition called pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas — the same gland that makes digestive enzymes as well as insulin. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases enzymes and begins digesting itself — a serious and painful condition that often requires hospitalization.

Keep pets confined during any holiday parties, or make sure guests (especially kids) know not to give treats to your pets. Dogs have been known to drag an entire turkey off the counter when the owner’s back is turned, so make sure you’re aware of their whereabouts during meal preparation.

If you do want to include your pet in the meal and fun, stick to a bit of lean turkey and low- or no-fat veggies (no onions, though — these can cause problems for dogs).

.. Tinsel: This stringy, silvery and notat all-edible stuff can get twisted up in the intestinal tract (usually in cats — proof that feline smarts only go so far) and cause real problems. Keep it above cat-level on the tree and definitely consider not using it at all.

.. Alcohol: Talk about a buzzkill! First, I am telling you that chocolate and food are no-no’s for pets, and now I am warning about drinking, too. But it’s warranted, so don’t get your Doberman drunk. Make sure that all the boozy party leftovers are well out of reach, and that no lampshadewearing guests try to give your pug a mug of beer. No one wants to see a basset hound with a hangover — it’s just too sad.

.. The open door: People come and go more during the holidays than at other times of year, and all that traffic can lead to plenty of opportunities for escape. We see many pets who make a break for freedom when Uncle Floyd comes a-callin’ with his special tuna surprise. Dogs and cats can dart out the door without anyone noticing, and there’s a whole big world of hurt just waiting for them out that door.

Make sure that pets are safely put away when you are expecting guests, and take a nightly head count to make sure that all the furry family members are accounted for before turning in for your visions of sugar plums.

Here’s hoping you have a safe and sane season, and all family members make it through safely, no matter how many legs they have. 

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