The Christmas holiday is one of great joy, family reunions and a lot of celebration.  But, for some pet loving families, this happy time of year quickly turns to sadness and distress because of a medical emergency.  Here are some very real stories of holiday emergencies and some tips on how to avoid a trip to the animal ER!

Precious is a feisty Dachshund.  Her family enjoys her intelligence, her attitude and her zest for life.  It also seems that Ginger enjoys turkey and will go to great lengths to satisfy her cravings!

Last year little 15 lb Precious was able to wrangle a 20 lb turkey off of the counter and consume almost the entire thing, including the plastic wrapper and strings.  Precious came to our clinic with uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea. Thankfully, Precious survived her ordeal without missing a beat, but her story does point out the importance of monitoring what your pet has access to during holiday activities.

Precious was very lucky.  The emergency veterinarians at Southern Crescent Animal Emergency Clinic in Fayetteville can all recount cases where pets eat too much of the wrong type of food and develop a severe condition called pancreatitis.  They treat more pancreatitis cases during this time of year than any other season.

Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas.  When pets consume foods that are extremely fatty (like the skin of turkey or chicken), this can lead to inflammation.  Enzymes normally released by the pancreas can cause both local and systemic effects.  Although some cases are mild, we do see far too many situations where the pet died from this condition.  The sad thing is, many of these deaths could be prevented by taking simple precautions, including an immediate examination by one of our veterinarians at the first sign of illness.

Pets with pancreatitis can quickly become painful in their abdomen and often have persistent vomiting. Certain breeds of dogs, dogs on specific medications and pets with immune problems are more prone to this condition.  This is especially true with cats. Our veterinarians will recommend blood work and several days of hospitalization and treatments for pets with pancreatitis.

But, it’s not only the skin of the turkey or any excessively fatty foods that can cause problems.  Obstructions and perforations of the intestines from eating the bones of the bird are very common.

Of course, the holiday bird is not the only food issue at this time of year.  With an abundance of chocolates and even sweet foods containing Xylitol, these wonderful holiday treats can cause serious problems.  Chocolates can cause heart issues or seizures and xylitol treats can set off potentially fatal blood sugar crashes or liver failure in dogs.

Other holiday favorites, like rum balls, eggnog or even fruitcakes might contain alcohol.  Intoxicated pets can experience seizures and respiratory failure.

Grapes, raisins, currents, macadamia nuts, extremely salty foods or foods prepared with a lot of onions and/or garlic are all potentially dangerous as well.

Use pet friendly treats like green beans, carrots or even a handful of dog kibble if you want to share your holiday feast.  Let your guests know the family rules about sharing from the table so that friends don’t unknowingly cause a problem.

If you can’t trust your pet, or maybe your dinner guests, it might be best to let your pet have his own room during mealtime.  When dinner is over, be sure to remove all temptations from tables or counters and place all trash behind a secure door. Far too many pets are drawn to the smell and raid the trash can when the owner is not watching.

Remember, our veterinarians as well as the local animal emergency hospital (Southern Crescent Animal Emergency Clinic in Fayetteville) are the best sources of information if a holiday emergency occurs.  Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions if you are concerned.

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