Dr. Christen Woodley

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day are four great holidays crammed into six weeks.

We go for months with a normal work week and then it all hits. It seems that you do not have time to enjoy one without focusing on the next one. I see Christmas decorations up in stores and it’s early October. Way too early for me to be focusing on that, giving in to the rush of presents and preparations.

There are things that are urgent around the holidays, and there are things that are important around the holidays. The people who give and receive the most joy are the ones who can distinguish between the two. Our pets are not immune from the holiday rush and sometimes are even traumatized by it.

Sometimes, we might think, “If I have a great meal on these days, isn’t it only right to share it with my pets?” The answer is NO. I’m not saying that a small bite of turkey is extremely deleterious to a pet’s health; however, I have had to remove pieces of that beautiful turkey leg bone from a few stomachs, because mom or dad felt they just couldn’t say no to those irresistible, puppy-eyes.

Dogs and cats do not deal well with drastic change in diet. It can cause major problems. A good idea for leftover bones is to put the bones in a bag and freeze them. When the leftovers are gone, and you have a craving for turkey in two months, take them out of the freezer; add chicken stock and vegetables, then, simmer in the crock pot for eight hours on low. Voila! You now have a really good tasting and healthy soup.

We don’t usually eat the fat that is removed from the derrière of the turkey, so that can go in the trash. Guess who not only has a great nose and can smell anything from the next block, but who will not ask permission to eat it? Pancreatitis is caused by ingestion of a fatty meal and is a very debilitating disease for pets. It is treatable, but your pet will be uncomfortable and you would rather not spend any more money during the holidays.

In addition to this, some of our tasty side dishes are actually toxic. Dogs and onions do not do well together and grapes will give a pet’s kidneys fits. Everyone loves to bake but chocolate in larger doses can cause neurologic and heart problems. Let your pet enjoy the holidays without any gastrointestinal upset.

Sometimes, you may think. “I enjoy my tree it is so beautiful, why shouldn’t my cat enjoy it too?” Out of all the “holiday diseases” I have treated, none is more common or more deadly than linear foreign bodies in cats (which is a fancy way to describe a cat that swallowed something long and skinny). We have these lying around all the time during this time of year. Tinsel looks beautiful on trees but can fall to the ground at any time. Packages need to be wrapped, and the special ones get the nice decorative ribbon. Then the phone rings, we get interrupted and distracted, and our cat starts to play with the 12-inch piece of either decoration that is on the floor. At first, he is intrigued by just slapping it with his paws. Then, he takes it in his mouth and tosses it from side to side, but some of it sticks to his tongue and he doesn’t know what to do but swallow. He has no fingers to pull it out. So, the whole length goes down into his digestive tract.

If you are very lucky, he will vomit it back up and be fine. Usually, the stomach tries to digest it for a while, and then tries to pass it downstream to the bowel. The problem with that is that the bowel is not a straight line. It goes around in a circle and when you straighten out a piece of string it goes to a straight line. This actually works like a saw, and it cuts the bowel which is painful and life-threatening without surgery. The first thing I ask during the holidays when a client brings in a vomiting cat is “Were you wrapping presents recently or do you have tinsel on your tree.” I cringe when the answer is “yes,” because I know the dangers around the holidays of what can happen. Most people take excellent care of their pets and are just not aware of these dangers.

Focus on the important things this holiday season, not the urgent ones. The one who gives the most love wins! Have a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah and a happy New Year. Please drop by and say “hello” to us anytime. Just don’t have a sick pet.

Dr. Christen Woodley, DVM, is a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of Dunedin, 1355 Pinehurst Road.