Season's Eatings: Don't Stuff Your Pet like the Turkey!
The holiday season is a time when most people indulge in the delights of the season: eggnog, pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing and gravy....oh, my! Too often, owners and their friends want to share their food with the family pets, not realizing the dangers that exist in such behavior beyond unhealthy weight gain.
"The things that pets can overindulge on are mostly food or treats," says Lorrie Clemens, DVM, owner of Woodside Veterinary Clinic in Redwood City, California where she has been in practice for 21 years. "We worry about dogs ingesting too much fatty food which can lead to diarrhea or gas. As a veterinarian, I worry more about pancreatitis which can result from high fat foods and can be very painful and even life threatening."
Dr. Clemens is also concerned about the dog eating Christmas cookies or chocolates. The cookies would be another fat issue but toxicity is a risk especially with premium dark chocolate.
Too often a dog is given food instead of the attention he wants. Or if food is left within reach, the dog will eat it.
"I don't seem to see any dogs overindulge on walks and exercise, go figure," says Clemens.
"As for cats, they are less likely to overindulge and instead just wreak havoc with the Christmas tree and the ornaments," Clemens points out. "I would not put tinsel on a tree if you own a cat nor would I string up popcorn. Some cats like to eat popcorn. And with string of any sort I worry about ingestion causing severe damage to the intestine necessitating surgical removal." You don't want your holidays to involve a trip to the emergency animal hospital.
According to Clemens, preventions for dogs can be problematic.
"Do not leave people food on the kitchen counter if you own a medium or large breed dog. Quite a few have been known to either knock the food down and eat it or dance on the counter for joy over the feast," says Clemens.
As I point out in my book "Small Dogs, Big Hearts," many little dogs like to do their counter surfing from on top of the counter. "It is hard to explain to the guests why there won't be a main course for dinner because the dog ate the whole roast. It has been known to happen!" Clemens attests.
"This is such a busy time of year for owners. If they have children they will have to have a discussion with them about preventing the dogs from eating fatty people treats.
It can be difficult because the kids will either forget and leave candy or cookies out, or consciously feed the dog, or a toddler inadvertently giving up their treat. "Fly by snacking" by the dog" is the way Clemens rather cleverly puts it.
"The best thing that owners can do for their pets if they are young and healthy is exercise them. Most dogs and indoor cats do not exercise enough. By decreasing their boredom one can prevent a lot of behavior problems. Letting them indulge in a few pet treats - not people treats - during the holiday is fine, but take the dog for a walk or to a dog park daily," Clemens advises. "Encourage the kitty to play with its favorite toy to decrease its energy for running up the Christmas tree and cutting itself on the broken ornaments.
Darlene Arden, CABC, is an author, journalist, speaker, and teaches part of the Dog Training and Management Course at Kutztown Univeristy. You can visit the Certified Animal Behavior Consu