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Holidays increase food risks for pets
By Dr. Joel D. Ray Jr.
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The holiday season is a fun time for family and friends to celebrate, but it is also a time when pet owners should be aware of holiday dangers for dogs, cats and other beloved pets.
Foods create some of the biggest threats to pet health, and one of the most hazardous foods is a staple during the holidays: chocolate. Chocolate can cause seizures and possibly death in pets. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and restlessness. Other warning signs include increased heart rate and respiration, and blue-colored gums. These signs can occur within six hours of ingestion.
Keep holiday chocolates out of reach of curious pets. Be aware that many pets can get into boxes of chocolate under the tree or on the coffee table, even if the candies are wrapped.
Rich, fatty foods such as pork, turkey skin or gravy can overwhelm a pet’s digestive system and cause pancreatitis. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea and severe abdominal pain, resulting in an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
Bones may be the most tantalizing treat for pets, but they also are dangerous. Small bones or bone chips, particularly those from birds, can become lodged in an animal’s throat, stomach and intestinal tract. These bones also can splinter and form needle-like shards that can damage a pet’s stomach or intestines. In some cases, surgery is required to remove the bones.
Feeding undercooked food can result in bacterial disease in pets as well as humans. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning and other bacterial food-related conditions are similar to those for pancreatitis and sometimes include a high fever.
Onions, commonly found in dressing or stuffing, can be toxic to your dog or cat. When ingested, they can destroy red blood cells and result in anemia. Grapes and raisins can also be toxic to pets, and ingestion can result in kidney failure.
To avoid many of these food hazards, consider feeding pets before the festivities begin to discourage pet begging and stealing. Keep goodies out of pets’ reach. Keep all leftover foods in tightly closed containers, and keep garbage cans secured. Also try giving pets chew toys during the holiday activities to keep them occupied.
Remember, accidents happen, so keep your emergency veterinary clinic information close at hand.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Joel D. Ray Jr. is a native of Mississippi and an assistant clinical professor with MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.