Pet column: Keep your pets safe on Thanksgiving

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Spending time and sharing food with guests and family are holiday highlights. For some pets, it’s exciting. For others, it’s distressing. As part of holiday preparations, create a pet-safe holiday plan. Statistics show that most holiday-related emergency vet visits are preventable.

Dr. Tony Johnson, an emergency specialist on staff at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine sees accidental poisoning and swallowed foreign objects at the top of the holiday emergency treatment list. A 2012 report from Veterinary Pet Insurance determined that in 2011, policyholders spent more than $22.8 million on medical conditions associated with the holidays. Treatments ranged from $105 to $2,328. Again, eating or swallowing harmful substances and objects was the primary cause. Sorting a database of more than 485,000 insured pets, VPI determined the 10 most common holiday-related medical issues were:

1. Gastritis (vomiting): ingesting “people” food, holiday plants (lilies, hollies and mistletoe) and Christmas tree water

2. Enteritis (diarrhea): eating “people” food and scraps

3. Colitis (loose or bloody stool): eating “people” food; holiday stress

4. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas): eating fatty “people” food such as roasts, gravy, nuts, egg nog, etc.

5. Gastric foreign body (foreign object in the stomach): ingesting Christmas tree decorations, ribbon, small gifts, and bones from holiday meats

6. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (bloody vomiting and diarrhea): eating people food; holiday stress

7. Intestinal foreign body (foreign object in the intestines): ingesting tinsel, other Christmas tree decorations, and bones from holiday meats

8. Gastric foreign body, surgical (surgical removal of foreign object from the stomach): unable to pass Christmas tree decorations and bones

9. Intestinal foreign body, surgical (surgical removal of foreign object from the intestines): unable to pass tinsel, ribbons, or bone fragments

10. Methylaxanthine toxicity (chocolate toxicity): eating chocolate or other caffeinated products.

Practice these safety measures to protect both pets and guests:

1. Keep pets away from the door as guests come and go. Just in case, make sure ID tags and microchip information is current.

2. Supervise pets and kids together. Keep the excitement level down for both.

3. Provide a stress-free “safe” escape room for pets to avoid guests if they wish and for confinement when party activity escalates. A crate-trained pet can feel comfortable while protected in his or her den.

4. Keep pets out of the cooking area, away from temptation. Baby gates make good barriers. Provide toys stuffed with kibble to occupy pets while people eat.

5. Secure and remove garbage quickly to avoid pets getting into the bad stuff.

Keep the family veterinarian emergency number in plain sight, along with the national poison hotline: 800-213-6680. For a $39 fee charged to a credit card, the 24-hour Pet Poison Helpline service is available in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. Veterinarians guide pet owner and doctor through a suspected poison emergency. The nominal fee covers the initial consultation plus all follow-up calls associated with management of the case.

Pet poison includes alcoholic drinks, marijuana, herbs like sage which contain essential oils, raw bread dough which causes bloating, fat trimmings and bones, Macadamia nuts, onions and chives, alcohol, raw eggs, meat and fish, chocolate, grapes, nuts, raisins, persimmons, peaches and plums, milk or excessive amounts of dairy products, garlic, caffeinated drinks, and food, candy, gum or baked goods containing the sweetener xylitol as well as over the counter nasal sprays, sleep aids, multivitamins, prescription sedatives, antacids, stool softeners, smoking cessation gums, and more which contain unexpectedly large amounts of xylitol.

Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind”. Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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