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Holiday Pet Safety Tips with Dog TuckerThe holidays are here again. A time for getting together with friends and family, and celebrating over big home cooked meals. But those happy times can quickly come to a halt when your pet unexpectedly becomes ill from eating some of the things we enjoy so much. Everything from turkey and desserts to even holiday decorations may pose as threats to our four legged friends. Knowing what things can pose threats to our pets, what signs to watch and what to do in case of an emergency can make all the difference in saving your pets life, so please read on.

Turkey with all the drippings may be tasty to us, but when a pet accidentally gets into the trash, or even steals some food off of a table or counter, that pet is at risk for developing diarrhea, vomiting, pancreatitis, choking on bones or even needing surgery to remove a foreign object. All of these can pose very real risks and even death for your pet as well as added stress in a time that can already he stressful. Baked goods that contain chocolate or Xylitol (used as a sweetener and also found in gum and toothpastes) when ingested can make your pet very sick. Chocolate contains a compound toxic to dogs called theobrornine along with caffeine and rnethylxanthine, which can cause arrhythmias, respiratory failure and severe pancreatitis. Xylitol can cause a pet’s blood sugar level to drop causing hypoglycemia, which can lead to seizures and can also cause liver failure. These can all be fatal if not treated quickly and appropriately.

Often a pet will develop pancreatitis by ingesting too big of a meal that is especially high in fat. The pancreas is an organ that produces insulin and other hormones that help us to digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed as the name pancreatitis implies, symptoms can include anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, and fever. Keep in mind a pet does not have to exhibit all of these symptoms at once to be experiencing pancreatitis. While this disease can sometimes be mild, don’t be fooled, because it can quickly become serious enough to require emergency hospitalization and care, and even with treatment some pets may succumb to the disease.

Another risk for pets is holiday decorations such as ornaments, ribbons, tinsel, Christmas tree water, snow melt (salt) and potpourri. These can either be toxic or if ingested cause a foreign body to be lodged in your pets abdomen, which may require emergency surgery. Surgery in itself can be risky, but those risks are increased if the pet has preexisting health conditions (heart murmur, diabetes, etc.) or if the pet is treated too late. A sharp foreign body can puncture through the delicate tissues in the abdomen and lead to death if not treated immediately.

The take home message here is that we all love our pets and want them to partake in family events. However, being aware of some of these everyday dangers and preparing for them by making sure things are locked away and stored properly will ensure a safer and happier holiday season. Knowing your pet and seeking immediate veterinary care if you know your per has ingested a potential toxin will also help to ensure your pet recovers. Keep vital information — such as the pet poison control hotline, as well as the name, number and address to your closest veterinary emergency hospital — tacked to your refrigerator or stored on your cell phone for easy access so it is readily available when needed. Also, take some time to view the ASPCA’s website which has tons of great information about what foods and household items are toxic to pets. By being more informed you may just save your pet's life.

We wish you and yours Happy Holidays and a safe New Year!

~ Dr. Roseline Cuevas