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Here Come the Holidays and the Digestive Emergencies!

By Belinda Garten DVM

We have turned back our clocks, and now we are looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas! While the youngsters are excited about gifts under the tree, many of the adults are excited about the meals that go along with the holidays. With so much food to prepare, we almost always have a few leftovers, right? And why wouldn’t we share them with our four legged friends? Let me give you a few reasons.

First of all, it is unlikely that many people have a “carpet cleaner” on their wish list, but I can tell you that forking over a few leftovers may create that situation. Even when pets (dogs and cats) are used to getting a bite from the table from time to time, at some point they will decide that it is no longer a good idea. Their bodies are not capable of digesting meals or treats that are high in fat, and will consequently deposit them on your floor, couch, or bed in the form of vomit or diarrhea. Not a very "Happy Holiday".

Another reason to avoid offering table scraps and leftovers to your pets is that they may be dangerous and sometimes deadly. If you are attempting to reduce your calorie intake and opt for the sugar-free version of pie, cookies, cake, chocolate, etc. be sure to keep them out of your pet’s reach. A sugar substitute, xylitol, is particularly deadly to dogs. Even when the symptoms are caught very early, there is little that can be done, and the outcome will likely be very tragic. There is no treatment for xylitol toxicity. Plan on another way to skip the calories and pass on anything that says “sugar free” on the label unless you have dietary needs that require you to watch your sugar intake.

Although it has been said over and over in our clinic, it is always a good reminder to NEVER give your pets any bones. Not only can they cause an obstruction, like choking or becoming lodged in the intestines, the sharpened edges can cause tears anywhere between the nose and the tail. While some will dispute that they never give “sharp” bones to their pets, it should be pointed out that pets will chew up the bones and create sharp edges prior to swallowing. It is a good idea to place all of the bones in a plastic bag after the meal and take the trash out immediately. Secure the lid to the trash can so that pets and other animals will not knock over the trash can and find the bones. Few things are worse than picking up your trash when it has been scattered all over your yard and trails down the street.

Finally, spend your money on your family, travel plans, or cute toys or outfits for your pets. If you plan to share your table food or scraps with your pets, you can also plan on spending some money on a pet emergency. Vomiting and diarrhea often cause dehydration that is treated with intravenous (IV) fluids. Xylitol consumption is almost always fatal, and obstructions or perforations usually require surgery. Each of these will require a full exam, bloodwork, radiographs, and hospitalization, and are necessary to decide on a treatment plan that is best for your pet.

We all look forward to spending time with our families, but we also understand that emergencies happen, and they are never planned. Do all of us a favor, and follow these tips to a happier holiday season and a safe new year!


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