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GI Issues Plague Pets During Thanksgiving Holiday

Posted: Nov. 21, 2012, 7:32 p.m. EST

Thanksgiving is a notorious holiday for gastrointestinal issues with pets, as owners often leave hazardous leftovers and decorations within reach of their cats and dogs.

The top-10 holiday-related claims reported to pet insurance provider Veterinary Pet Insurance Inc. of Brea, Calif., were GI related, with gastritis, enteritis and colitis comprising the top three most-common issues.

Dog licks chops in front of cooked turkey
“People tend to leave turkey breasts and carcasses out way too long after the meal is over,” said Cori Gross, DVM, field veterinarian for VPI. “Owners should just set them on the counter in the kitchen. They should take them out to the garbage immediately.

“When we’re all relaxed and sleepy in the living room, that’s when the pets get on the counter.”

Owners should keep a close watch on cats during the holidays because they are prone to hiding ailments better than their canine counterparts, Dr. Gross added.

The most expensive common holiday claim is surgical removal of an intestinal foreign body, which cost an average $2,328 per pet, while the least expensive, enteritis, costs $105, according to VPI figures. Gastritis, the most common ailment, cost an average of $279.

Other common holiday-related ailments include pancreatitis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, methylaxathine toxicity and gastric foreign bodies.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Behavior College of Santa Clarita, Calif., offer several tips for owners to keep pets safe during Thanksgiving:

  • Dispose of carcasses, bones and anything used to tie or wrap meat, including aluminum foil and plastic wrap, in a covered, tightly secured container.

  • Do not feed raw or undercooked turkey to pets.

  • Rather than feeding leftovers to pets, buy treats specifically made for pets.

  • Crate or board shy or excitable pets.

  • Keep decorations, such as centerpieces with flowers, out of the reach of pets. Lilies, in particular, are deadly to cats, and pine cones and needles may cause intestinal blockages or perforate a pet’s intestine.

  • Keep pets and kids away from open flames.

  • A brochure and video on the AVMA website lists foods and household items that are dangerous to pets.

The holidays are also a popular time for owners to travel with their pets, and the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals offers the following tips:

  • If traveling by car, take the pet on a series of short drives to acclimate it to being in a moving vehicle and gradually lengthen the time spent in the car.

  • Secure the pet’s crate and make sure it’s ventilated and comfortable.

  • Feed a pet a light meal three to four hours before departing.

  • Don’t feed a pet in a moving vehicle.

  • Don’t leave a pet alone in a parked car, even in cold temperatures.

  • Bring food, water, bowls, a leash, a waste scoop and plastic bags, grooming supplies, a first-aid kit, medication and vaccination records.

  • Also bring a pet’s favorite toy or pillow for a sense of familiarity.

  • Make sure pets are microchipped and wearing a collar and ID tag. Include contact information and the ultimate destination on the pet’s collar.

The ASPCA recommends against flying with pets that cannot ride in the cabin but offers tips if the pet must travel in the cargo hold:

  • Write “Live Animal” in large letters on the crate and draw arrows to indicate the crate’s upright position.

  • Tape a current photo of the pet to the crate in case the pet escapes.

  • If the plane is delayed or if the owners are concerned about a pet’s welfare, insist that airline personnel check on the animal.

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