Mischief, mishaps a holiday tradition

The 6-month-old Lab puppy grazed on the Christmas tree, gorging on glass bulbs, shimmery tinsel and more. When his owners brought him to the veterinary hospital, swollen with swallowed ornaments, he resembled a four-legged black tick with a pink tongue. A dose of barium to illuminate the intestinal tract on radiographs and force out the intestinal contents worked quickly, and before long, the dog was pooping out pieces of glass, string and wire hooks. As a big wad of tinsel emerged, it gave him the appearance of a giant New Year’s Eve party blower.

No doubt all of us have memories of a cat scrambling up a Christmas tree, or a canine or feline counter cruiser tucking into the roast beast. As we enter the holiday season, it’s time to bone up on pet-proofing our homes to prevent pet mischief. After all, no one, least of all our dogs and cats, wants to spend any of the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the veterinary ER. Here are some cautionary tales:

▪ A pointer we know made the news when he ate a child’s pushpin craft made with marshmallows to form a snowman. The dog ate the entire thing and required emergency surgery to remove the pushpins. This year, the family will be surrounding the Christmas tree with a pet gate to prevent unauthorized ingestion of ornaments or presents.

▪ Cats, famed for their ability to leap tall counters in a single bound, and their partners in crime, dogs of all sizes, are notorious for stealing food off plates, tables and counters, sticks of butter left out to soften, chocolate-covered espresso beans and marshmallow Santas.

▪ Dexter, a parson Russell terrier, lives with a family who left a box of holiday chocolates sitting on their coffee table. They came home to find the contents all over the floor, with much of it eaten. Dexter picked out his favorite varieties from the box. Fortunately, the only outcome was a case of diarrhea, but now family members make it a point to put unsafe food items well out of reach.

▪ In another case, curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but it did cause him to get an unusual bath. Amanda Graves recalls the time her husband noticed that their Abyssinian kitten, Peyton, was looking a little greasy. Closer examination revealed he was covered in chicken broth.

“He had pushed aside the silicone lid on a cooling stockpot of homemade chicken bone broth and had gone for a swim,” she says.

Strategies that can help you head off holiday trouble include decorating with unbreakable ornaments, forgoing tinsel and putting unsupervised food out of reach.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books.