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Happy Holidays, Healthy Pets

December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16

Keep these tips in mind for a safe holiday season with your pets:

“Keeping pets healthy and safe during the holidays can be more challenging than you’d think,” said Dr. Kenneth Drobatz, chief of the Emergency Service at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Ryan-VHUP). “But if you take a few preventative measures you’ll make it through the season without a trip to the ER.”

Dr. Drobatz offers some tips to keep pets healthy—and out of the emergency room—during your holiday festivities.

Festive foods

Maintain your dog and cat’s regular diet. Treats of turkey, ham, gravy, cookies and other goodies can lead to gastro-intestinal upsets like diarrhea and vomiting. Be sure, too, to dispose of all bones carefully so pets can’t get to them.

“Poultry bones are particularly dangerous,” said Dr. Drobatz. “They splinter and can cut the intestines or get lodged in your dog’s or cat’s esophagus.”
Guilty human pleasures, like chocolate and alcohol, can be toxic to pets.

“Keep chocolate, nuts and alcoholic beverages out-of-reach from your pets as they can cause vomiting, diarrhea or a condition called pancreatitis, which can be deadly,” said Dr. Drobatz. Additionally, grapes and raisins can be toxic to pets as well.

Deck the halls

“Tinsel, extra wires for decorations and glass ornaments all pose an arsenal of potential pet problems,” said Dr. Drobatz. “Tinsel cuts the intestines and causes severe injuries. Electric wires look especially appetizing to puppies and kittens, and, if they succeed in chewing them, they can suffer burns or shock that can cause seizures, loss of consciousness and fluid in the lungs. Glass ornaments and ornament hooks are hazardous as they break easily; pets can ingest the splinters, cutting their mouth, esophagus or intestines. Holly and mistletoe berries are toxic to pets when ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, bloody diarrhea and dehydration.

“In addition, dough ornaments, because of high salt content, are not good for pets,” said Dr. Drobatz, “and ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea and in severe cases, seizures.” Certain plants can be toxic to pets if ingested, especially cats. Therefore keep all plants in locations that the pet cannot get to.

Good gift-giving

Give toys that are too big to be swallowed or get caught in the animal’s throat and don’t give anything with a string attached. Remove bells or squeakers as all of these things can be swallowed.

In case of an emergency…

Despite our efforts to keep our pets safe, some of them will get into something they shouldn’t. As with any potential emergency that could take place year-round, getting immediate attention from your veterinarian is very important. Remember to keep your primary care veterinarian’s phone number and address placed in a visible location—like on your refrigerator—and be sure everyone in your family knows and understands what Fido and Fifi can and cannot have.

If you notice that a pet has gotten into something potentially hazardous, call your primary care veterinarian immediately and be prepared to describe what the pet has ingested and/or gotten into.

Practices often close up shop around the holidays, so have an emergency facility phone number on hand and posted in the same location as your primary care veterinarian’s info. Ryan-VHUP’s Emergency Service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In an emergency, call (215) 746-V911 (215-746-8911).

Almanac - December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16