Christmas can be tough for pets

brown dog

brown dog

BREA, Calif. — From snacking on human treats to biting colorful light bulbs, as the winter holiday season draws closer, pet owners must keep an even more watchful eye on their furry, four-legged friends.

In 2011, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, policyholders spent more than $22.8 million on medical conditions commonly associated with the holidays.

The company recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine the 10 most common holiday-related medical conditions last year.

Here are the results:

Potential holiday hazards and causes:

1. Gastritis (vomiting); Ingesting “people” food, holiday plants (lilies, hollies and mistletoe) and Christmas tree water.

2. Enteritis (diarrhea); Eating “people” food and scraps.

3. Colitis (loose or bloody stool); Eating “people” food; holiday stress

4. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); Eating fatty “people” food such as roasts, gravy, nuts, egg nog, etc.

5. Gastric foreign body, medical (foreign object in the stomach); Ingesting Christmas tree decorations, ribbon, small gifts and bones from holiday meats.

6. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (bloody vomiting and diarrhea); Eating people food, holiday stress.

7. Intestinal foreign body, medical (foreign object in the intestines); ingesting tinsel, other Christmas tree decorations and bones from holiday meats.

8. Gastric foreign body, surgical (surgical removal of foreign object from the stomach); Unable to pass Christmas tree decorations and bones.

9. Intestinal foreign body, surgical (surgical removal of foreign object from the intestines); Unable to pass tinsel, ribbons and bone fragments.

10. Methylaxanthine toxicity (chocolate toxicity); Eating chocolate or other caffeinated products.

 Each of the conditions listed above makes for an unexpected veterinary expense during the holidays for pet parents.


The most expensive condition on the list, intestinal foreign body — surgical, cost an average of $2,328 per pet, while enteritis, the least expensive condition on the list, cost an average of $105 per pet.

The most common condition on the list, gastritis, cost an average of $279 per pet.

In 2011, of the 267,915 claims processed during the holiday months (November through January), 24,262 were for conditions commonly associated with holiday festivities. Of those claims, 17,421 were associated with vomiting and diarrhea.

“Our data shows that most pet holiday accidents or injuries are related to pets eating people food or other holiday objects, suchas tinsel, holiday houseplants, ornaments and ribbon,” said Dr. McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.

“Whether it’s holiday food or decorations, pets have a knack for ingesting foreign objects, and it’s important for pet owners to keep unsafe items out of reach.”

Dangerous treat

VPI received 1,020 methylaxanthine (chocolate toxicity) claims in 2011. Of the claims, 227 were submitted in December, a 310 percent increase over the average of 73.3 methylaxanthine claims submitted during all other months throughout the year.

In addition to December, February (Valentine’s Day), January (left over treats from the holidays) and April (Easter) were the months with the most chocolate toxicity claims. Chocolate toxicity claims had an average cost of $380 per pet.

Although death only occurs in approximately 1 in every 3,000 chocolate intoxication cases, the ingestion of chocolate could result in vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.

Whether it’s chocolate or other harmful objects, in order to ensure a safe holiday season, pet owners should safeguard their homes and protect their furry friends from potential holiday dangers.


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