Vets warn to keep pets and rich holiday foods apart

COVINGTON -- 'Tis the season for giving thanks for blessings and holiday joy, and family pets are excited by the new smells, arrival of guests and perhaps a stocking full of treats with their name on it. They may put on a convincing performance of how much they want to sample the holiday feasts, but they won't thank you the next day when they end up in the vet's office with a stomachache or worse.

Vet Tech Denise Lusnia of Wellspring Animal Hospital on Crowell Road said their practice usually sees an influx of patients over the holidays.

"There's too much food around for pets. Kids give them stuff and people get rid of extra food and the pets end up in the emergency room with pancreatitis, vomiting and diarrhea," she said.

And sometimes pets' stomach problems don't stop there.

"The other thing is they get ahold of turkey bones and then they end up in surgery because it perforates their stomach or intestines," Lusnia said, adding to remember that sometimes with all the smells associated with cooking and feasting the temptation becomes too great for the pets and they just help themselves by getting into the trash or even climbing onto a table.

She advised owners not to feel that pets must be given a Thanksgiving portion, but if an owner feels it is a must, they should be given only a small amount of lean turkey meat along with their usual daily feeding and let that be it.

The Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (GVMA) has issued a list of warnings pet owners should heed to keep their pets healthy during the holidays:

-- Keep people food and beverages out of the reach of your pet; ask your guests to do the same.

-- Turkey bones are off limits. They can easily splinter and puncture organs if consumed.

-- Make sure your pet doesn't have any access to treats, especially those containing chocolate, xylitol (artificial sweetener in sugar-free candy and gum), grapes/raisins, onions or other toxic foods.

-- If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it's boneless and well-cooked.

-- Portion control, please! A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn't pose a problem. However, don't allow your pets to overindulge as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse -- an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it's best to keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

-- While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them made-for-pets chew bones or stuff their usual dinner -- perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy -- inside a hollow pet toy. They'll be happily occupied, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

-- Don't leave your pet alone in the room with lit candles.

-- Keep holiday plants out of reach of pets. Many are toxic to pets.

-- If your pet is excitable or scared when you have company, consider putting your pet in another room with some of his or her toys, a comfortable bed, etc. or providing a safe place for your pet to escape the excitement such as a kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf or hiding place. The same goes for excessive noise, which may frighten your pet.