Pet Points: Safety is by far the best gift for your pet

Christmas is just a few days away and last-minute shoppers are busy. In addition to children and other loved ones, pets are often on people's shopping lists. Pet store aisles are filled with pet coats, toys and accessories.

Pet safety should be on the mind of every person who fills a stocking for their furry friends. Last year at this time, I removed an antique Christmas tree ornament that a client's pet had eaten. The fabric stuffed ornament, which had decorated the tree for generations, was obstructing the dog's intestine.

Hard toys can fracture the main chewing teeth, requiring a root canal or extraction. Dogs that chew bones, cow hoofs, antlers or other strong material can be predisposed to expensive dental work. Solid rubber toys are a better option. I had a large rubber ring that survived decades of multiple large breed dogs until my Jack Russell finally destroyed it. After months or even years of chewing, some toys can become small enough to be swallowed. They should be replaced.

Scrutinize new toys to be sure they are appropriate for dogs or cats. Ribbon and tinsel are deadly if a pet swallows them. Batteries can be very dangerous, creating burns if chewed or eaten. Electric light wires are also problematic. Holiday decorations, including some plants, can be toxic if ingested. Chocolate, alcohol and table food waste all have been known to make pets sick or worse.

Jerky treats are very common this time of year. For the past six years, Chinese-made jerky treats have been targeted as dangerous. More than 3,000 reports and 580 deaths have been blamed on them, but the cause of their toxicity is not known. In a recent Australian study, 60 percent of the reports of toxicity were from pets with gastrointestinal illness and 30 percent involved kidney problems. Some pets experienced damage to the proximal tubules, causing a high urine glucose reading without elevated blood sugar. The remaining reports were for other symptoms.

Until the specific toxin is identified, take extreme caution when buying jerky treats. I do not recommend them. Veterinarians around the world have been asked to communicate with authorities and save samples related to any suspicious illnesses.

One of the best gifts for your pet is jewelry. Having a microchip or license, ID and rabies tags might be the best gifts ever. Leashes and collars are also fashionable accessories for the holidays. For cats, make sure the collar is a break away type. Dog leashes with lights or reflective material are also new concepts for safety.

Christmas can be ruined with unexpected veterinary visits and bills. If you include pets in your holiday celebration, please take precautions to keep them safe.

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.