Pet Points: The holiday season isn't over yet so take precautions to keep your dog or cat safe

One of the first canine surgeries that I was able to assist with was a beagle that had eaten tinsel. The intestine bunched and inverted on the silver strands and a piece of intestine needed to be removed. As a senior veterinary student at the time, some 40 years ago, my new skills helped the pet and turned what could have been a dreadful holiday memory into a joyous season for the owners.

Like this example, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are full of hazards for pets. 

In a single hour last week I had three cases of pets who ingested toxic material. A client emailed me about a pet who ate raisin bread. Raisins can be dangerous to dogs. Some hydrogen peroxide given orally with salt water at home brought up the potentially toxic food.

I wasn’t working on the Friday before Christmas but I stopped by the clinic to find a small dog in distress. She had stuffed her stomach with holiday bread that had both raisins and chocolate. We attempted to induce vomiting. Two injections had failed to produce results, and oral peroxide was not bringing up the stomach contents. Our only option was a general anesthetic and a stomach flush. The ball of bread was so dry and filling it took an hour of flushing to soften the bread mass to empty the stomach through a tube. This was messy and nauseating work. But 10 minutes after we finished, she was awake and back to normal.

Raisins can  cause life-threatening kidney failure. Chocolate can cause intense heart stimulation, and even small amounts of cocoa product can result in sudden death.

The third case came in as a text. A recently castrated kitten was vomiting. I made a special trip to the office to find a constipated kitten who was eating pine needles from the Christmas tree. He is doing just fine now.

Holidays are full of potential disasters for pets. Ingestions from food in trash can cause dogs to bloat as their stomach rotates out of the normal position. Pancreatitis is common after pets find fat from meat drippings in the trash. Bones can break teeth, cause intestinal blockages and lead to perforations and a fatal peritonitis. Alcohol, marijuana and human medications are also common serious problems when ingested that can ruin a holiday season.

Tragic animal medical problems can turn a joyous season to one of sadness. Losing a pet is never easy, and precautions can save the day. Have a safe and happy New Year.

Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended 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 Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.