January 8, 2012
Dr. Bonnie Jones ‚??‚??Tis the Season‚?Ě certainly rang true this year in our practice and our home. I don‚??t mean the season of giving, caring and being kind to others that comes with Christmas. I am referring to the seasonal veterinary emergencies that accompany a time of many distractions.This year seemed to have an abundance of the ‚??my dog ate the Christmas chocolate ... ‚?Ě phone calls. You can fill in the blank with any delectable chocolate treat I would have preferred to ingest instead of knowing my canine patients had done so. Along with numerous phone calls about chocolate intoxications, this year also brought the reminder that ‚??tis the season‚?Ě for pets to up their frequency of foreign body ingestions. Mix the introduction of holiday decorations and gifts strewn about with the bustle and distraction of pet owners at this time of year, and you have the perfect storm for foreign body ingestions by pets.This year‚??s unlucky foreign body patient was Boomer, the fun-loving Boxer that gorged on a reindeer decoration made of pipe cleaners and chocolate. After a couple days of binging and purging, abdominal X-rays warranted blood testing and exploratory surgery. While no obvious foreign material was found in Boomer‚??s intestines, he did experience an episode of acute kidney failure associated with his ingestion. Close monitoring, plenty of fluid therapy to jump start his kidneys, and antibiotics brought a timely recovery so Boomer could be home for Christmas.Many are the stories of feline family members scaling Christmas trees and batting about and breaking ornaments. I try to remind cat owners to place durable, less valued ornaments on the bottom of the tree and invest in a good tree stand. Once stolen from the tree, cats have great fun playing with ornaments and may inadvertently swallow parts of them. Not wanting to exclude pets from ‚??the reason for the season,‚?Ě many pet owners purchase and wrap gifts for their fur family to open on Christmas morning, which brings me to the real subject of this column. Choosing proper toys for pets can go a long way toward keeping them safe and preventing foreign body ingestions.The nature of dogs, especially large breeds, makes it difficult to provide them with enduring toys that are not harmful if ingested. Powerful canine jaws can exert close to 450 pounds of pressure. Not many toys will withstand that repeated abuse. Thus, I am a great fan of one-piece, indestructible chew toys that are large enough to prohibit swallowing. Hard rubber toys, such as Gumabones and Kongs, are my favorite and most recommended. Most Kong toys have a space to place food treats in or on them to make them more attractive. I recommend stuffing Kongs with canned dog food, peanut butter, or squeeze-cheese mixed with pieces of dental treats or dog kibble. Freeze this Kong delicacy overnight, and your dog will have a delightful treat to keep it busy for an extended period, especially when alone. Avoid dog toys constructed of hard vinyl, nylon or plastic, especially for aggressive chewers, as these materials are notorious for breaking teeth and causing injuries to the gums and lips. Livestock hooves and bones can do similar harm. Even round ‚??soup bones‚?Ě can be dangerous when they are swallowed whole or become lodged around the lower jaw.Pets given cloth toys, such as stuffed animals, should be carefully selected and monitored. Keep in mind that giving your pet cloth toys may teach it to chew on your cloth possessions such as rugs, socks, and underwear.Another product to avoid for dogs is rawhide. Even with close observation, this substance is often swallowed in large pieces, and invariably ‚??grinds‚?Ě its way through the intestines. Inflammation or obstruction of the intestines can be the end result. One of the saddest cases I have seen was a Pekingese that arrived at our office minutes after choking to death on a piece of rawhide stuck in the back of his throat.For our feline patients, I recommend the simplest of toys already in your home such as table tennis, foil or paper balls, laser lights, cardboard boxes, and paper bags. Avoid linear toys such as yarn or string, and be cautious with fishing pole toys. Control the rod yourself as you entice your cat to chase its ‚??prey‚?Ě without swallowing it or the string.Still not convinced about safe toys? Just ask Betsy Louise, our 8-month-old Welsh Corgi puppy, about hydrogen peroxide gastritis. I made her vomit after she snacked on my office rug the day after Christmas.Dr. Bonnie Jones co-owns Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, Dr. John H. Jones. She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.