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Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 8 August 2019  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Pets and holidays go together –- most of the time
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   I look forward to Christmas every year, but for some pet-loving families, this happy time of year can quickly turn to sadness and distress because of an unexpected pet medical emergency –- and there are a lot of them. Having spent part of my career running a large animal emergency hospital, I know we should take a quick look at what goes wrong and how to prevent it.
   We rescued a neglected Great Dane some years back; and, on his second night home, he saw me put a freshly cooked pork loin on the cabinet to cool just a bit. I made a short trip to another room; when I got back, the pork loin was gone; and Tucker was still gulping.
   However, in the ER, I had a little (15-pound) dachshund actually beat Tucker’s gulp. This cute little thing managed to wrangle a 20-pound turkey off the counter (using the bar stools) and consume the entire thing, including the plastic wrapper and strings. The people were gone, and she took her time. The diarrhea she had was foul, and we had to work overtime to prevent her from dying with pancreatic inflammation.
   Both of these extremes in dog sizes were very lucky –- medically speaking. This could have been fatal for either one. Every year, emergency veterinarians from across the country can recount cases where pets eat too much of the wrong type of food and develop a severe condition called pancreatitis.
   Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas. Small dogs seem more prone to this, but any dog can suffer. It occurs when pets consume foods that are extremely fatty (like the skin of turkey or chicken). After eating the offending food, this angry little organ causes pets to develop an extremely painful abdomen and severe vomiting. Enzymes normally released by the pancreas can cause both local and systemic effects. Although some cases are mild, far too many pets spend a few very expensive days and nights in the ER, and may eventually die from this condition.
   What about bones? One day when I was appearing on “CBS This Morning,” the host asked me (in all seriousness) if it was OK for dogs to eat turkey bones! Bird bones are NOT soft, and others are sharp as razor blades –- so NO! Obstructions and perforations of the intestines from eating these bones are very common.
   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 unique to pets. 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 give just a few extra holiday goodies. Let your guests know the 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 secure all food trash. Far too many pets are drawn to the smell and raid the trash can when the owner is not watching.
   For the Falcon area, remember that Tender Care Veterinary Clinic on Meridian keeps extended hours (719-559-8282), and I think you should have the North Powers ER number handy (719-473-0482). Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions if you are concerned. Be warned, using online “pet forums” for advice could end up costing you valuable time.
Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian in Colorado Springs and also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.
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