Hello, fellow Allegheny Valley pet lovers! My name is Betsy Kay Kennon
VMD. They call me Dr. Betsy here at the shelter. I have been the
volunteer veterinarian here for over four years now and am very proud
of what we do.
Animal Protectors would like to give you an opportunity to ask any
veterinary questions you may have about your pets and their medical
care, so we are starting this "Ask the Vet" column. I have been a
veterinarian for over forty years, so I should know the answer to most
of your questions. If I don't, I will find someone who does. That way
we will both learn something.
I thought I would start things off today with a question I hear a lot
this time of year....
"What should I watch out for during the holiday season that could
be a hazard to my pets?"
First, let me dispel a myth. Poinsettia plants are not poisonous. If a
dog or cat should eat part of a poinsettia plant, they may have some
vomiting and/or diarrhea. This is true of a lot of common house
plants. Dogs and cats were not designed to eat leaves and stems. But
the plant is not poisonous, and they will not die.
Another myth I hear every year at this time is that turkey is poisonous
to dogs. It is not. In fact, a lot of dog foods and cat foods are made
with turkey. What can be hazardous, however, is feeding your pet a lot
of the fatty skin or the bones of the turkey, which can make them very
sick. Excess fat can cause pancreatitis, a painful abdominal disease
that can be fatal especially in little dogs, and bones can cause really
bad constipation, or can even cause an abdominal obstruction that
requires surgery to correct. Bones can also perforate the intestines,
causing a fatal peritonitis. And surprisingly, cooked bones are more of
a hazard than raw bones. And, as with all foods, feeding too much of a
good thing can cause a GI upset. So feel free to share a little of the
turkey with your pet. Just stick to the lean meat parts, and not too much.
For cats, a big holiday hazard is the tinsel many people put on their
Christmas trees. Cats have a weird habit of eating string, given the
opportunity, and tinsel is shiny strings. In their intestines, the
string can get stuck, then as the intestines contract and move, the
string can saw right through the intestine, again resulting in a fatal
peritonitis. So for cat lovers, no strings of any kind, and that means
With lighting the tree and other electric decorations, there likely will
be more electric cords around the house this time of year. Pets, both
dogs and cats, can be attracted to those cords, and bite into them,
resulting in a nasty electric shock. In mild cases, they will get a
burn across the inside of their mouth where they bit the cord, but in
severe cases they can be electrocuted. So be aware of any and all cords
in the reach of your pets. When you can, put them out of reach. When
you can't, you can coat them with bitter apple (you can get this in pet
stores) or a really hot hot sauce so they taste too bad for the pet to
want to bite.
And finally, I'm sure there will be lots of chocolate goodies around
this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Chocolate can be poisonous to dogs,
but it depends on how much they eat, and how big the dog is, and what
kind of chocolate it is. White chocolate is not very toxic at all.
Milk chocolate is toxic, and dark chocolate is even worse. Baking
chocolate is the worst of all. And size matters. A big dog can eat a
bunch of M&M's with maybe no ill effects, but a tiny dog can get really
sick from eating just one.
If your dog gets into some chocolate, there are two good things for you
to know. One, you can make him or her vomit it back up by giving them
hydrogen peroxide by mouth, followed by a good drink of water. The dose
is 1 tablespoon per 30 pounds of dog. If they don't vomit right away
(but they usually do, especially if you get them to drink water after
giving the peroxide), you can repeat this again 10 minutes later. If
they vomit the chocolate back up, problem solved. The other thing to do
is call your vet. Veterinarians have a neat device called a chocolate
wheel. With this gizmo, they can plug in the weight of your dog, the
type of chocolate it ate and how much it ate, and then tell you if you
need to worry or not.
I hope this was helpful. And I hope to be able to answer many more of
your questions. You can submit your questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.