By Dr. Gary A. Borgman, D.V.M.
As I write this article, we are winding up the summer heat-humidity-hurricane season and rapidly approaching the seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. I have been requested to answer a question from one of our readers: “Is it okay to give special treats to pets during special times?” My answer is “it depends”. Candy, especially chocolate is never appropriate. Some candies contain zylitol, an artificial sweetener which should never be given to pets. Zylitol can drastically lower the blood sugar resulting in weakness and even seizures. Chocolates contain stimulants which can be dangerous to the heart. Another common treat is from the human table. As a general rule I advise against giving pets human foods, especially high-fat or fried foods. These items can induce gastritis (vomiting) and secondary acute pancreatitis. Any inflammatory condition within the organs of the abdomen can result in a painful pancreatitis, which may require hospitalization and supportive IV fluid therapy and anti-emetic and pain relieving medications.
I suggest creating treats from canned dog/cat food by baking small portions in the oven. Of course there are many choices for commercial treats and this is generally better than “people food” from the table. Many pet owners like to give vegetables such as green beans, or carrots. Boiled white chicken is usually well tolerated by pets. The only problem is that this practice creates a craving for chicken. Many small dogs will eat only chicken and this is not a balanced or nutritionally adequate diet. I always advise to never offer bones to dogs. I once was presented a very senior patient with an uncomfortable abdomen who had eaten a large quantity of chicken bones from the garbage can. X-rays revealed a stomach full of small chicken bones. Fortunately the fully cooked bones were fresh so there was no spoiled food to result in bacterial food poisoning. This patient was very senior, had a major heart murmur and was a poor and risky surgery candidate. It was not vomiting so we elected to wait it out and after a couple days, the bones were digested and absorbed. This patient lucked out. Ingestion of bones is not always so good an outcome.
Bones can be lodged in the mouth, pharynx and esophagus. If they make it to the stomach, they may be eventually digested and absorbed but they may remain or get lodged in the small or large intestines, necessitating an emergency surgery. As a general rule, if the patient is not vomiting, and is eating, they will probably be okay without surgical intervention.
Since we are approaching the holiday season, this is often a time to get a puppy or kitten. I have written extensively on selecting new puppies and kittens. I think the most important assurance of getting a healthy pet is to always ask anyone selling a young animal for a certificate of veterinary examination and vaccination. We usually issue these certificates for puppies and kittens at 7-8 weeks of age. This is the best age to leave their mother for a new home. State law requires this certification for all sales in Florida. The adoption and shelter organizations will also provide documentation of examination, parasite treatments and vaccinations given. Many puppies and kittens are sold privately without this documentation.
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) are available to answer your questions about treats for pets and new puppy/kitten health issues. We are here to help and to serve.