Q: May we treat our dog and cat to some Thanksgiving leftovers? Is it OK for the cat to clean the remaining meat from the turkey carcass and chew on the small bones?
A: In a word: No. Veterinary emergency clinics see way too many dogs and cats after holiday feasts. Don’t make your pets join that crowd.
Any abrupt change in diet can precipitate diarrhea and vomiting in pets.
Worse, many dogs that feast on high-fat foods like turkey skin, mashed potatoes and gravy develop pancreatitis. This condition, which starts with loss of appetite, abdominal pain and vomiting, may progress to death. Recurrent pancreatitis can lead to diabetes and loss of normal pancreatic digestive enzyme activity.
Bones cause countless problems for dogs and cats. They often break teeth, and sometimes they slice the gums or cheek.
If a bone gets stuck in the esophagus, your pet will choke and gag. A bone that becomes lodged in the stomach or intestines will cause vomiting and decreased appetite. If a fragment gets inhaled into the trachea or lungs, expect coughing and breathing difficulties.
Bones can splinter and puncture the stomach and intestines, causing infection within the abdominal cavity, and bone fragments can produce constipation and rectal bleeding. Many of these problems require surgical intervention.
Another concern over the holidays is foods that are healthy for people but toxic to pets. Onions and garlic damage pets’ red blood cells enough that they break apart and no longer carry oxygen. Grapes and raisins can harm canine kidneys. Macadamia nuts cause neurologic problems in dogs.
Even xylitol, a sugar substitute found in many prepared foods, candies and gums, can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia and liver damage in dogs.
Show your dog and cat you’re thankful they’re part of your family by treating them to new toys while you enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers.
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Q: We are thinking about getting our children a pet bird. Is a parrot a good “starter bird” for them?
A: Not really. Better options for people without much bird experience are budgies, finches, lovebirds and perhaps cockatiels. If you have children under 6 who may accidentally hurt or be hurt by a bird, it’s best to wait a few years.
Parrots need adult caregivers who have lots of experience with pet birds.
Your first step in choosing a bird is to arrange an appointment with an avian veterinarian. If none of the veterinarians in your area treat birds, don’t buy one.
Consult the avian veterinarian to learn what type of bird will best fit your family’s lifestyle. Ask about the best breeders and whether there’s a bird rescue in your area.
During the consultation, talk about what you’ll need to do to care for your new bird properly. Among other things, you’ll have to provide a large cage, quality food, toys and regular veterinary care.
Consider your environment when you choose a bird. For example, parrots vocalize loudly, which may be a problem if you have neighbors nearby. Parrots also require a great deal of individual attention and one to three hours of daily exercise outside the cage.
You are making a lifetime commitment to this avian family member, and while budgies may live only a decade, parrots live more than 50 years. Your avian veterinarian will be your best resource throughout this time, so start a relationship today.
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— Lee Pickett DVM practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Click here to ask her questions for her weekly column. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.