Christmas is coming and children are told that there is a difference in being naughty or nice. Our pets also like to walk the fine line on behaving well or badly.
Naughty cats and dogs like to chew ribbon, string and especially tinsel this time of year. If ingested these can be deadly or lead to very expensive medical treatment. Veterinarians are especially aware this time of year and look for cats and puppies with obstructions caused by string or other foreign bodies. Surgery is often needed in these cases.
Sometimes we find an obstruction that can be removed by entering the intestine with a procedure called an enterotomy. We find fabric, plastic or string that make it halfway through the intestinal tract and get stuck. If the foreign body is there too long or if the intestine inverts on itself, we have to do an intestinal resection. After removing a piece of intestine we carefully suture the two ends together and hope there is not a leakage or disruption in the blood supply. Infection is the major consequence of entering the bacteria-filled intestine.
Even the pets of veterinarians like to be naughty as I had one dog that needed an operation for a foreign body -- twice!
Naughty pets also like to chew electrical cords or even topple a decorated tree. Batteries also are chewed or swallowed.
Nice pets tolerate the holiday season. They do not get into food they should not eat. They ignore the chocolate and the other treats left in a tantalizing spot on the coffee table. They leave the garbage alone. They do not get sick on the new carpet.
Nice pets do not show aggression to family, friends and strangers when they visit. Nice cats also use the litter box 100 percent of the time even though the season can be stressful.
Nice pets give us unconditional love in return for food, proper care and shelter.
This is also the time of year that we are thankful for our blessings. My family does not participate in excessive gift giving, but I do have a few wishes for the season.
I wish that everyone takes responsibility for their four-legged family. The tragic unnecessary overpopulation crisis at animal shelters across the country is the fault of irresponsible pet owners not the unfortunate shelter workers who have to deal with human "mistakes." I wish for the day when shelters have a waiting list of nice people looking to adopt instead of a kennel full of barking dogs and frightened cats.
I wish for every pet not in a professional breeding program to be sterilized, which would prevent both medical and behavior problems. Imagine a world where the news no longer has to feature a story where a child is mauled by a non-neutered dog.
I wish all dog owners walked their pet with a plastic bag to pick up after their dog. My morning Post-Gazette newspaper is delivered daily in a green plastic bag, just perfect for cleaning up the mess my dogs leave behind.
I wish for every pet that strays to have some form of identification. Microchips, collars with a license and identification tags all will save lives if pets are found. This is the time to purchase a city or county dog license, and do not forget to make a donation to help abused and neglected stray pets through the county license program to AAARF! (Allegheny Abused Animal Relief Fund).
Responsible pet ownership is the recurring theme of this column. I appreciate all of the positive feedback from my veterinary colleagues, clients and readers of the column.
I wish you and your pets a safe, healthy and a very happy holiday season.
Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His column will appear biweekly. The intent of this column is to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, email email@example.com. Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.