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The holidays and winter seem to arrive at the same time and are full of extra challenges for pet parents. Refreshing on the “don’ts” during the holidays is always a plus. Local retired veterinarian, Dr. Jay Fineman, believes that pancreatitis — otherwise known as “garbage-itis” — is one of the leading problems.
The pancreas is a tiny gland found in pets that secretes the digestive juices which break down foods. With pancreatitis, these enzymes start to work in the pancreas, instead of the intestines, creating havoc. The cases can be mild and cleared up almost overnight or they can be deadly.
He says the biggest culprit are fats found in all the cooked, rich meats that we prepare for special occasions. Even if you are taking precautions remember that counter-surfing pets, accessible trash cans, strings, nets and anything used to bind up food, can be a target and create other issues as well.
Christmas trees, tree water, ornaments, lights, tinsel, burning candles, ribbons and other decorations all pose hazards. Chewing on electrical cords can cause burns and shock. Tinsel and anything that is a string can be ingested by cats and dogs and scissor up the intestines. Never pull on a string if it is hanging out of the rear.
Pets can easily knock a tree over causing glass to break and all sorts of mayhem. Cats are famous for climbing trees. One recommendation is that you anchor your tree from the top to keep this from happening. Using an exercise pen around the bottom is another way to keep pets out.
Leaving pets alone with decorated trees, certain toys and chews can be costly. Fineman recalls an emergency after midnight on New Year’s Eve. A happy, amorous couple came home to find the dog with a beef marrow bone jammed around the lower jaw. That put a damper on plans!
He also wants people to realize that your pets are barefoot. Every time they go outside, they absorb moisture. The rains can create a great deal of toxic exposure in parking lots and roads. Oil residue, antifreeze and lead from exhaust can be absorbed through the paws.
Trimming back fur in the paws can help reduce moisture accumulation. The fur in between the toes can mat, pulling and damaging the skin which contributes to infections. Another trick is to dip the feet in clean warm water then towel dry once you are done walking.
For short-haired breeds, he recommends using a curry comb, like those used for horses, to get any sand out of the coat. Towel dry the moisture off their bodies. Dogs that go in the salty ocean need to be rinsed with warm water, toweled and dried.
Fineman is a believer in an hour a day for exercise regardless of the elements. Some dogs absolutely love the rain, but some do not. Using a pet coat and boots might help these pets. Creating a dry potty space with straw or shavings that keep the feet clean is another suggestion. Make sure that ample, fresh drinking water is always available.