Tips for keeping pets safe during Thanksgiving break


Those soulful eyes peering out from beneath the Thanksgiving table can ultimately lead to a soul-searching trip hours or days later.

On any given day, pets end up in the emergency room about every 2.5 seconds, national statistics show.

With the addition of holiday food and excitement, veterinary emergency hospitals are bracing for a rush to the ER on Thanksgiving and one or two days afterward.

“The holidays are a really busy time in the ER,” said Natalie Clawson, practice manager at Veterinary Emergency Referral Center in Norman.

Cases jumped about 80 percent last Thanksgiving and the day after, compared to a week earlier at the center.

The majority of those cases were dogs and cats with gastrointestinal issues. The patients either grabbed table scraps or were given highly seasoned table food.

“We tend to pile a lot of different flavorings in these things. They’re far richer than pets are used to ingesting and so they can cause digestive upset like vomiting and diarrhea,” Clawson said.

In extreme cases, hunks of fatty ham may trigger pancreatitis, making the pet very sick a day or two after Thanksgiving.

Turkey and ham bones created the second largest category of emergency cases last year, she said. Surgery — at a cost insurance companies peg at $1,600 to $10,000 — may be needed to remove such foreign bodies.

“People always want to give treats. They want to share their food,” said Clawson. “So the big message is what’s on your plate is likely to upset their stomach.”

Preventing dog f


Dog fights also send a lot of pets to the emergency room every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving guests bring their dogs into an amped atmosphere with a lot of noise, people and animals.

A dog fight can break out suddenly, when the resident dog gets a whiff of the intruder.

For people who want to take their dog to another dog’s home, Clawson recommends placing both dogs on leashes. Then, rather than taking the visitor to the host’s home or backyard, both leashed dogs should meet in a neutral area such as the street or a park.

“Let them sniff each other, let them introduce themselves to each other as dogs typically would,” Clawson said. “Then they can walk together into the home.”

The emergency clinic isn’t expecting a lot of cat-fight patients over the holidays because most people don’t travel with their cat.

There’s another reason, too, Clawson said.

“Cats are very good at communicating before they get into fights,” Clawson said. “Like they’re going to hiss. They’re giving other warning signs to that other cat, like, ‘I’m not OK with you.’ Where a dog typically is not so great at that.”

Clawson said it’s also pretty common for pets to run out during all the holiday commotion and get hit by a car.

”So pets get out of the house accidentally,” she said.

Whenever possible, it’s really best for people not to take their pets to stressful holiday events, said Clawson.

The best ways to keep pets out of the emergency room is to pay attention, stay calm and offer doggie cookies or cat treats rather than blobs of human food.

“Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also can carry some significant risks for pets,” said Dr. Lori Teller, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “By understanding these dangers, and with a little planning, you can help make this Thanksgiving a safe and enjoyable experience for all your friends and family — including the four-legged ones.”


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