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Archive for Sunday, November 4, 2007

Treat your pets right during the holidays

November 4, 2007

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Thanksgiving is for family. So if some of your family is four-legged, it seems only right to share with them, too.

But the results aren't always festive, as Sandi Garcia of Denver, Colo., learned the hard way on her first with Holly, a golden retriever. Just before dinner, Garcia set down a lovely plate of turkey and stuffing topped with gravy.

"She gulped it down in two seconds flat. Then we humans sat down and said grace," Garcia says. "Just as we were about to dig in, Holly appeared in the dining room and proceeded to throw up her entire turkey dinner in front of all the guests."

Fortunately, Holly didn't suffer any long-term consequences. The same couldn't be said for the holiday meal.

"Needless to say, nobody had an appetite after that and dinner was served as leftovers the next few days - when we could stomach it."

Holly's reaction isn't surprising. Giving dogs food they aren't used to, even a new kind of dog food, can easily lead to an upset stomach, says Dr. Ken Drobatz, director of emergency medicine and professor of critical care at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school hospital. More serious problems, both long-term and emergency, also can occur when pets help devour the holiday meal. Exercise both caution and moderation to keep your pet safe for many holidays to come.

Pay attention to ingredients

"Too much fat is associated with pancreatitis, which can result in mild vomiting to potentially life threatening illness," Drobatz says. So don't give pan drippings or gravy, and it's safest to remove turkey skin, which is fatty. And be very careful not to let your pets get at the bones. "Turkey bones can splinter. They can stick in the esophagus, where they are hard to get to - it can be be really serious."

Another potential risk is onions in stuffing or side dishes. "Lots of onions can cause red blood cells to break down and cause anemia. Even onion powder can be dangerous."

Drobatz cautions that cats are more sensitive than dogs to toxins such as those in onions. Fortunately, cats don't tend to overindulge in strange foods as much as dogs do.

But be cautious, because you never know what an individual cat will get a taste for, as Dawn Lamb of Mountain View, Calif., discovered one year when her mother went to the kitchen to get the pumpkin pies that were cooling on the counter.

"Sitting on the counter was Cloyd," the family's Siamese mix, "face down in the center of one of the pies, eating his way to the edges."

Cloyd was fine - he died in his sleep many years later at age 20 - but the family learned its lesson. "From that time on my mother kept the pies covered, but always saved a slice for Cloyd," Lamb says.

Drobatz says that side dishes like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin are probably safe, but, he emphasizes, "in small amounts. Not a whole pan of it."

Watch for hidden hazards

For dogs - who tend to eat first and ask questions later - the danger can be not just food, but anything that has come into contact with food.

That risk was certainly immediately evident to Christi Lopez of Fremont, Calif., last year, when her Airedale terrier Abbey swallowed a 4-and-a-half inch metal turkey skewer that had fallen on the floor.

"I tried to pry her mouth open. It was like trying to pry a vise open," Lopez says. Realizing the dog had already swallowed, she raced to the vet, where surgery was done to remove the skewer - which now hangs on the vet clinic wall as a souvenir.

Abbey was fine, but Lopez was grateful that she'd just renewed the pet health insurance she had bought through the American Kennel Club: The bill for the surgery was more than $2,000.

Train your pet - and yourself

So prevention is obviously the key.

Lopez is working on training Abbey not to lie on the kitchen floor, where things are dropped. And don't turn your back on that spread of leftovers - your pet may be capable of surprising feats when inspired by food, as Gary Sand of Lindale, Texas, found one year when he returned to the table he was clearing and found only one turkey drumstick where, minutes before, there had been two. Also missing in action was his maltese, Sassy.

"I looked all over for her and finally found her under a bed on the opposite end of the house. She was hugging her monster drumstick and feasting like a gluttonous little queen."

Sassy had somehow gotten the drumstick - which he guesses was half her weight - off the table and dragged it across the house. And she didn't give up her hard-won prize without a fight.

"I took it away from her, and it was the only time she ever bit me."

Comments

Marion Lynn 6 years, 5 months ago

Currently building a new house for SMS Spike The Dog and also for Chopper The Dog; main representative of a new species; Canis Chopperei.

The houses will have 6" insulated walls with ceiling mounted heaters (We'll make certain to buy carbon tags! LOL!), a deck on one side and a tower on the other with a sundeck on top. The stairs to the top are really a series of smaller decks with only 6" rises as these guys are not new; 13 and 12 respectively.

Each of these Big Boys has a puppy to call their own for a while and they get along famously with them.

Really funny to see one of the Big Dogs discipline a baby as you would swear that the Big Dog is killing the little one but the babies are unhurt; the mere showing of huge canines accompianied by a deep growl results in all sorts of cryings and screamings and poopings and urinatings from the little ones who act in these ways to demonstrate submission.

It's a real hoot but quite frightening to the uninitiated!

Each has his own enclousure, the size of a medium sized house so they have plenty of room to play ball, stick and run around.

It is really neat to see the babies lick at the throat of one of these monsters to eilicit regurgiation; the way in which the pack leaders feed the young.

It is wonderful to watch and animal twenty times the weight of the baby nuture and care for that baby.

The Demani-lookin' Dog has become like "Spike III" and follows him as he trots around doing his several times daily perimeter walk, trying his level baby best to look and act like Spike, marking where Spike marks, barking when Spike barks and then lying down with Spike for the Siesta.

A born Alpha male, that little critter is!

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