‘Tis the Season for Chocolate and Sick Pets

christmas petsThe doctors and staff at Rivertown Animal Hospital want you and your pet family to have a safe and happy holiday season.   This time of year can be stressful and holds special challenges for our four-legged friends.   By being aware and taking a few precautions we can avoid a trip to the Animal Emergency Clinic. Thank goodness they are there when we need them!

Our trees are trimmed and surrounded by wrapped presents with shiny ribbon, twinkling lights and electrical cords.  Cookies are baking and our houses are full of wonderful smells and delicious temptations.  It is cold outside and our pets are cooped up inside. With fewer walks and excess energy to burn, what is any self-respecting dog or cat to do?

If this week is any indication, chocolate is a big temptation. Twice, I have walked into the treatment area of our hospital to see a poor dog with his head in the proverbial toilet bowl. (We use a cat litter pan). One Labrador retriever vomited up what looked like 2-3 lbs of dark chocolate candies, wrappers and all.  I was surprised the stomach could hold that much candy!

I have had my own encounters with naughty pets.  My chocolate Lab, Abby, once ate two holiday pies when I wasn’t looking.  One Christmas morning, I awoke to find my miniature schnauzer, Gigi, sitting in the middle of the dining room table, licking an empty butter dish.  She was quite pleased with herself. We had put everything else away.  Why not the butter? This type of excess can lead to severe cases of vomiting, diarrhea and even life-threatening pancreatitis.

Human medications are another hazard that may cause severe illness and death when ingested by our pets.  Two weeks ago a black Labrador retriever named Charlie, found a bottle of Advil Gel Caps by the bedside table. He was discovered with the crushed bottle and liquid gel caps, punctured, and spread over the bedroom floor. Medications, such as Aleve and Advil, can cause kidney failure and stomach ulcers at very low doses. Charlie was treated quickly by induced vomiting, activated charcoal given orally to absorb the medication and two days of IV fluids. His kidney values were closely monitored over several days. Luckily he is doing fine.

Cats love to chew on shiny objects, string, ribbons, berries and plants.  Lilies are particularly toxic and can cause kidney failure if ingested. This time of year, mistletoe and even the less toxic poinsettia can cause problems. Ribbons and strings if ingested may cause vomiting and death if not surgically removed. Electrical cords can be a real show stopper if chewed through by a dog or a cat. For more information on these and other holiday hazards click here.

Some of the things to avoid feeding your pet include: chocolate, grapes and raisins, xylitol (chewing gum), onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, raw bread dough, alcohol, bones, fat, human medications including aspirin, Tylenol, Advil or ibuprofen and Aleve.

If your pet eats something potentially hazardous you can call the Pet Poison Hotline, your Veterinary Hospital or the Animal Emergency Clinic.  Don’t delay. Early treatment may mean the difference between life and death.

Are you traveling for the holiday?  Don’t forget to secure your pet when in the car.  We don’t travel without restraining ourselves or our children. Our pets deserve the same safety measures.

Help your pet beat the stress by getting them out for walks and engaging in more playtime.

There are many articles written each year about holiday hazards for pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association has recently posted a list of holiday safety tips.   We want all of you to have a safe and happy holiday.  Don’t forget to take the extra precautions needed to keep your pet out of harm’s way.

Ginger Garlie and her pups

Dr. Ginger Garlie Gigi and Holly