Holiday treats could be hazardous to your pet's health

December 11, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Don't forget to keep an eye on your pets this holiday season. A little caution could save you both a trip to the vet's.

Some holiday hazards to avoid:

* People food. How can you resist slipping your pet a little piece of skin while you're carving the holiday turkey? What harm could a few chips do?

Resist your urges, or your pet could be spending the holiday at the emergency clinic.

Fatty or spicy foods -- indeed, anything your pet's not accustomed to -- can trigger a bout of intestinal upset. In mildest cases, it means cleaning up a mess or two in the house.

In the worst cases, a fatty treat can trigger a serious inflammation of the pancreas or intestine, and that means a trip to the vet. Fatty foods are especially risky to old, overweight or chronically ill pets.

Avoid feeding your pet anything you wouldn't want to eat. While a little bit of meat -- beef or poultry -- won't hurt and would certainly be appreciated by your pet, steer clear of the fatty parts, especially poultry skin.

If you're the type to add a little turkey gravy to your pet's kibble as a special treat after a holiday meal, resolve to find another way to express your affection. An alternative: Prepare a clear broth from the turkey bones or giblets and add it to your pet's regular fare, along with a tad of finely chopped meat.

* Foreign bodies. Most people know better than to give chicken bones to a pet, but even the largest turkey bones are likewise off-limits. Poultry bones splinter easily, and should one pierce the lining of your pet's intestine, the result could be deadly.

While poultry bones are out, some beef bones can be safely substituted. Knuckle bones and oxtails stand up to vigorous gnawing.

One caveat: Some dogs prefer to eat bones rather than just chew on them, and if you've got one of those, keep an eye out to make sure the bones aren't causing internal problems. A pulverized bone can solidify like concrete in an animal's lower intestine, causing constipation and, occasionally, blockage that must be removed by a veterinarian.

* The Christmas tree. It is full of hazards for dogs and cats. Tinsel can be an appealing target for play, but it can twist up an animal's intestines if ingested.

Ornaments, too, are deadly in the mouths -- and stomachs -- of pets, and even the water at the base of the tree contains secretions that could cause a stomach ache.

Strings of lights are no good for chewing, and the whole tree can come down on the cat climbing in its branches. And there are always some dogs that may even be inclined to break the rules of house-training on a freshly cut tree.

The best way to handle the situation is by making the tree off-limits to your pets unless you're there to watch and keep vTC them out of trouble.

* Poisons. Holiday plants may look intriguing to your pet, but some seasonal greenery is poisonous. And before you share your holiday candy with your pet, be aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs and may even be deadly to the tiny dog that gets a good-sized piece.

Again, the best treatment is prevention -- keep all holiday plants out of the reach of your pets, and keep the candy dish available to people only.

PET NOTE -- A couple of months ago I touted one of my favorite books, "How To Raise a Puppy You Can Live With" by Clarice Rutherford and David Neil.

Problem is, the price I gave was incorrect. The book is available for $9.95 (including shipping and handling) from Alpine Publications, P.O. Box 7027, Loveland, CO 80537-7027.

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