One of my most memorable holiday cases was the Labrador retriever puppy (what else!) who had swallowed an entire string of Christmas tree lights. When he was brought in, gagging, I opened his mouth and could still see the plug, far in the back.
I have to admit that it was tempting to anesthetize him, plug it in, and see if an ethereal glow from the body would tell us where in the gastrointestinal tract to look for the lights. This was a case that called for a specialist, though.
We didn’t have the imaging or endoscopic equipment to locate and remove the lights. Sometimes, it’s almost as if pets think the holidays aren’t complete without a trip to the emergency room. They suffer electroshock burns of the mouth from chewing on Christmas tree light cords, devour whole plates full of fudge, eat the toxic mistletoe berries off kissing balls, and raid the trash for the string used to wrap the turkey or ham.
We’ve seen it all, and we don’t want you to have to. The following tips will help you keep your dogs and cats safe, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus.
Does your dog love to swallow coins? It’s not an uncommon behavior, especially in puppies, but pennies minted after 1982 are made primarily of zinc. It’s an important trace element in the body, but toxic in large amounts.
Besides scarfing down pocket change, other ways pets can develop zinc toxicosis include gnawing on metal crates or old window frames in vintage homes or licking skin covered in zinc oxide creams or ointments. The condition causes gastrointestinal upset and anemia and is sometimes misdiagnosed as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. If your pet has a bellyful of pennies, they may need to be removed surgically.