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Holiday pet safety: feast or fail

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The holidays have arrived. It is time to remember that pets are especially at risk for food-borne illness and foreign body ingestion.

The Fort Carson Veterinary Center has started to see pets coming in with health compromise. Preventing these injuries is easier than treating them, so early identification and treatment helps save lives.

Here are some tips on preventing illness from the dinner table by avoiding certain menu items:

· Dressing - Thanksgiving dressing is often made with onions, scallions or garlic. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and can lead to red blood cell damage (Heinz body anemia).

· Potatoes and yams - While potatoes and yams are safe for pets to eat, these side dishes usually contain butter and milk, which can cause diarrhea in pets. Brown sugar and salts can also contribute to severe metabolic changes that can send a furry friend to the hospital. Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Salty foods can induce vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.

· Grapes/raisins - There are many salads and side dishes that include grapes or raisins as ingredients, such as fruit salad and ambrosia. Grapes and raisins are toxic and potentially deadly. Grapes cause severe, irreversible and sometimes fatal kidney failure in dogs.

· Pork -- Ham and other pork products can cause pancreatitis, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. Ham tends to be high in fat and calories as well, which can lead to obesity in pets.

· Turkey - Bones can cause severe indigestion, vomiting or obstruction in dogs and cats. Bones can splint and even puncture through the stomach or intestines causing a potentially fatal abdominal infection.

· Dessert - Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the worse the toxicity. Chocolate and coffee contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. Methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is dangerous to pets. Signs of toxicity can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after xylitol ingestion in dogs.

· Alcohol - Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should a pet be given any alcohol.
Be in control of what your pet eats.

· Beware of poisonous or dangerous items such as batteries, plant food, insecticides, fertilizer, rat bait, antifreeze, coins (especially pennies), string or fishing line, citronella candles, oil products and insect coils that may be around the home and yard and make a pet sick if eaten.

· Some dogs have a preference for used clothing such as socks, and will gobble these down at the first opportunity. Other pets may be interested in eating the insides of their stuffed animals, pieces of rubber or squeaky toys, and even the packaging tape that wrapped up their prized possessions.

· Put table scraps in secure garbage or refuse containers, do not feed them to pets. Too much fatty food during picnics or after eating from the garbage can lead to a life-threatening condition of the pancreas. Bones and rawhide chews also present a significant choking hazard and should be avoided.

· The heat, loud noise and confusion of crowded holiday events can traumatize a pet and may cause it to want to run away or escape from the environment. Make sure pets have a quiet, safe place that they can use for shelter within the home or while traveling abroad.

Make sure that pets are always wearing a collar or identification such as a tag or microchip. The Fort Carson Veterinary Center is available to place, scan and check the working status of pet microchips at each visit as requested.

Last, but not least, maintain recommended flea, tick and heartworm medication since diseases transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes may be life threatening. Note: Not all topical medications are waterproof or even safe for pets. Check with the Fort Carson Veterinary Center for recommended and approved medications to be used on a pet.

If you suspect that a pet has ingested something that they should not have, contact a veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Contact the veterinary center 526-3803 for more information.

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