Friday, Dec. 2nd 2011

Holiday pet health tips


Hoping all clients past and present have a joyous Christmas season! Enjoy your pets, enjoy your families, enjoy yourselves!

This month I want to address some hazards of the holidays that our pets may run into so you can make sure everyone stays healthy and happy.

Rich foods: Try not to allow your pet’s diet to change drastically. Take a supply of their usual foods along if you travel. While some of the holiday foods are fine for pets used to a variety in their diet, if their diet typically consists of only one or two foods don’t suddenly overload them with a gluttony of gravy-covered turkey and stuffing or you’ll be sorry you did.

Tinsel and other stringy items: This is usually more of a hazard for cats but some dogs have been known to swallow them as well. If they are swallowed, they can cause a condition called “linear foreign body” which consists of causing the intestines to accordion fold until the stringy item tries to saw through the folds. This is bad. Don’t leave pets unsupervised with long stringy playthings.

Holiday plants: Luckily most holiday plants such as poinsettia, mistletoe, and peace lily cause simple gastrointestinal distress (see “rich foods” above) but some can cause ulcerated sores in the mouth or even affect organs. Pets should not be allowed to chew on any houseplants that aren’t meant for it. If your pet craves such things, grow them their own pot of grass seed or catnip.

Fragile ornaments: Yes, heaven knows why, but some dogs think glass balls look enough like tennis balls to be worth chewing on. Obviously, when their shiny tennis ball turns into little glass shards they will regret this choice. Lacerations to the mouth can occur, and even worse, some dogs will swallow these shards.

Busy households: All the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be detrimental in more than one way. Changes in family schedules or numerous new people in the household can be psychologically distressing to pets who tend to be nervous about such things. Also, when many people are coming and going, sometimes a pet can slip out a door and become lost without anyone noticing for a while. During parties and large family gatherings, some pets may be happier in a back bedroom or kennel. Use your best judgment about your pet’s preferences.

Chocolate: Most pet owners are well aware that chocolate can be toxic. Unfortunately, this has been so publicized that much misinformation exists. DO NOT PANIC if your Labrador eats a chocolate kiss. A dog that size would need nearly half a pound of BAKER’S CHOCOLATE to experience chocolate toxicity (or more correctly, theobromine toxicity). Milk chocolate contains large amounts of milk and sugar, which can cause (say it with me) gastrointestinal distress but usually not chocolate poisoning unless massive quantities are consumed. So while it’s best to avoid letting your pets eat chocolate, especially if they are small pets, you don’t need to panic if your dog finds an M&M on the floor. Chocolate poisoning is dose dependent.

Cold weather: Different pets have different tolerances for the cold. If your pet is older, of low weight, short-coated, or of poor health; a sweater or coat is probably a good idea for any trips outside longer than a few minutes. If more cold-tolerant pets are going to be outside for more extended periods, make sure they have a warm shelter with dry bedding, a water source that will not freeze, and they may need an increase in food to provide calories to help keep warm. Anytime a pet is shivering, it should be brought indoors to warm up. Different breeds have different tolerances for cold—if you are unsure what may be appropriate discuss it with your veterinarian. You can also feed foods that are energetically warmer to help pets tolerate cold better—see my website under “therapeutic foods” for guidance.

I hope this newsletter offers you help in keeping your pets safe and happy throughout the coming winter. Feel free to share it with anyone you know who would appreciate the information.

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