’Tis the season to get gastroenteritis.

The holiday season is the time for parties and great food and festivities. It’s also the time of the year when we see a lot of pets come to the hospital for digestive issues. We want our pets to enjoy some of the special treats that only come once a year. 

Unfortunately, holiday food is often too much of a change from our pet’s normal diet and they get sick. Holiday food is rich and spicy and doesn’t agree with the digestive systems of cats and dogs. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we see dozens of pets per week with vomiting and diarrhea from holiday food. 

Many times it is not intentional. When we have guests over to our home, our little vacuum cleaner dog manages to gobble up every morsel that hits the ground. Unfortunately, he pays the price the next day. 

Make sure to lock up the trash after a holiday dinner, too. Pets can be just as sneaky as the Grinch. 

If your pet does get into the holiday food and gets sick, please do not give them human medicine such as Pepto-Bismol or other digestive aids. Many of these products contain ingredients that are safe for people but not for pets. Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol both contain aspirin, which can easily cause gastric ulcers in pets, even in tiny amounts. Your veterinarian will have similar products made specifically for your pet that are safe and effective. 

Holiday time includes other potentially hazardous things for our pets. We have had two marijuana ingestions in the last week and both cases were serious enough to require hospitalization. Dogs are much more sensitive to marijuana than people and even tiny amounts can have profound effects for days. In fact, the owners of the last case that came to us were unaware that their pet had ingested marijuana and thought the dog was having seizures and was dying. The dog was so ill the owners thought they were going to have to euthanize their beloved dog. 

Most pets won’t ingest alcohol such as wine or straight whisky. But eggnog, sweet warm cider drinks or rum balls are tasty to our pets. Be careful of leaving drinks and snacks unattended.

If you are planning on getting your pet some treats as a gift, make sure to only give a small amount at one time to avoid an upset stomach. 

In addition to getting a squeaky toy or food treat for your pet, consider getting them pet insurance. Pet insurance, if started when your cat or dog is young and healthy, is surprisingly affordable. Another suggestion I give clients is to start a simple savings account for your pet. Put a few dollars away every month into an emergency pet account. You never know when that nest egg will come in handy. 

Finally, please think carefully before giving a pet as a gift. Many people aren’t prepared for the responsibility and expense that a pet demands.

Our pets bring us so much joy and happiness. Please keep them safe this holiday season.

Wishing you and your furry friends a Happy Holiday.

Dr. Greg Perrault owns and operates Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach.

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