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Veterinary Talk by Dr. Jim Humphries

Real holiday emergencies in the animal ER!

The Christmas holiday is one of great joy, family reunions and a lot of celebrations. But, for some, this happy time of year quickly turns to sadness and distress because of a medical emergency with their pets. Here are some very real stories of holiday emergencies, and some tips on how to avoid a trip to the animal ER.Ginger 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.Dr. Lori Teller of Houston relates how little 15-pound Ginger was able to wrangle a 20-pound turkey off of the counter and consume the entire thing, including the plastic wrapper and strings. ìThe diarrhea she had was FOUL … no pun intended,î says Dr. Teller. ìWe had to open the windows and every door of the clinic to handle the smell!î Thankfully, Ginger 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.Ginger was very lucky. 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. Dr. Jennifer Hennessey, an emergency veterinarian at Sugar Land Veterinary Specialists, says that she treats 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; and, although treatable, it can be fatal. ìThe sad thing is, many of these deaths could be prevented by taking simple precautions,î says Hennessey. This includes immediate examination by a veterinarian.Pets with pancreatitis can quickly feel pain 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. Veterinarians will recommend blood work and several days of hospitalization and treatments for pets with pancreatitis.But, itís 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. Emergency technician Sonya King of Indianapolis, says that even veterinary personnel are not immune to this situation. Her own Bull Mastiff, Capone, got into the trash and ate a turkey carcass. X-rays revealed many bones in his GI tract but, thankfully, Capone recovered without major problems.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 donít unknowingly cause a problem.If you canít 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 in the garage in a safe container. Far too many pets are drawn to the smell and raid the trash can when the owner is not watching.The closest emergency clinic to our area is Powers Pet Emergency, and their number is 719-473-0482 ñ- write that down and keep it handy during the holidays. Donít be afraid to call and ask questions, if you are concerned.Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian 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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