Holidays, cold weather can leave pets vulnerable
December 16, 2005
Dogs and cats are easily intrigued. Imagine the temptations for mischief this time of year with holiday decorations, chocolate treats and yummy leftovers.”Some dogs are very indiscriminate,” said Dr. Gretchen Norton, a veterinarian at the Alpine Veterinary Practice in Dillon. “They’ll eat anything.” She recently saw in a veterinarian magazine an X-ray of a dog who had eaten Christmas ornaments.She said cats especially are interested in things like tinsel and string and items used for wrapping. If ingested, the decorations can bunch up in their intestines, causing a linear foreign body. According to Norton, it can be identified by symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting and a tendency to hide from owners.To make sure the Christmas tree is pet-proof, Dr. Raquel Brown, a veterinarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, suggests anchoring the top of the Christmas tree to the ceiling so it will not fall on a pet. Norton also added that if chemicals have been added to the tree water to help preserve its life, pets shouldn’t drink from it.Holiday plants also pose a threat. “The most notable poisonous plants are holly, poinsettia, mistletoe, ivy and hibiscus,” said Brown.”If your pet ingests a plant or decoration, you should immediately call your local veterinarian or the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) emergency hotline at 1-888-4ANI-HELP,” Brown said.While poinsettias are the most attractive and dangerous to cats, Norton reminds that chocolate is toxic to dogs.She said unsweetened baking chocolate is the worst – severe toxicity to a 70-pound dog occurs after ingesting three and a half ounces. It takes 35 ounces of milk chocolate to cause severe toxicity to a 70-pound dog.”Imagine them getting into a whole bag of Hershey Kisses,” Norton said.Other food worries – like the leftover turkey or stuffing – can be avoided by making sure dogs and cats can’t get to them.”Bones can cause serious injuries, even death if the bones perforate the intestinal tract,” said Brown. “You should also avoid feeding animals table scraps because the high-fat content may predispose pets to pancreatitis, or an inflammation of the pancreas.”Snowy weatherAs far as cold weather concerns for pets, Nancy Ring, executive director with the Summit County Animal Shelter, said the same medical issues that can happen to people in extreme cold weather can happen to pets.Frostbite to the ears, nose and extremities are possibilities.She also said roadway accidents are more common because dogs will travel where the snowplows have been, instead of trekking through a couple feet of snow.”They come out from behind a snowbank at a crossroad and you don’t see them until it’s too late,” Norton said.Some de-icers can be toxic to dogs, Norton said. She recommends being aware of what your animal is walking in, and if they walk into something unfamiliar, wipe it off promptly or avoid it all together.Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 669-3998 ext. 13622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.