Plan now for a happy holiday for your pets

Published 2:15 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

This week I wanted to give you a few reminders about the holiday season. The period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day tends to be busy for veterinary emergency clinics.

Often the emergencies they see are related to the holidays themselves and things that can be easily prevented.

If we plan ahead, we will have less to cause us stress while we are trying to celebrate with our friends and family.

At the top of the holiday emergency list, because of its rapid onset and the chance it can be fatal, is dietary indiscretion. Also known as “garbage gut” or “getting in the garbage,” this condition can occur without warning.

Usually if our pets get scraps from the garbage or food from the table, they fair pretty well. However, the meats we eat at this time of year, because of their rich nature and the volume present, can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ whose job it is to help release fluids that break down meat and fat.

After eating a helping of our meat of choice, our pet’s pancreas can go into overdrive and digest itself. The snowball effect that follows can lead to death.

Tinsel, while pretty on the mantel or on the tree, can act as a string foreign body when eaten by a cat. I know it seems unlikely, but there is something cats like about that shiny wispy material that causes them to consume sometimes very large amounts. The result is blocked intestines that require surgery to correct.

Poinsettias are a commonly known source of poison this time of year. There is some disagreement as to how severe the toxin. It can be as simple as a cause for gastrointestinal upset or, in some reports the cause of more serious outcomes. Regardless of the result of eating this plant, the best idea is to keep it up and out of reach.

And rounding out my top four list is electrocution by Christmas light. Maybe it is because we handle them or maybe the green plastic insulation, when warmed, smells and tastes good. Whatever the cause, some pets like to chew on the power cords supplying electricity to our lights. Again the key is keep it up and out of reach.

The holiday season can be safe and a lot of fun. Plan ahead to keep your pets out of the emergency room.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.