Mikey, the little round pug felt terrible. She had been vomiting all day, and the radiograph of her showed the culprit was a spider on a circle. The poor thing had swallowed a spider. Not a wiggle and jiggle type, but a child’s black plastic spider ring from a bag of Halloween spoils. She had undoubtedly also had a host of Sweet Tarts and Funsize Snickers bars, also unwise, but the plastic spider was blocking her intestines, a reminder that our pets will eat the darndest things. Surgical removal of the spider ring was successful, and the pug recovered.

Not infrequently, veterinarians will see repeat “intestinal blockage” offenders. Sock eaters, lycra lovers, squeaky toy destroyers commonly are seen more than once! Dogs that raid kitchen or bathroom garbage cans can get themselves in a bind. Cats that eat hair bands, or paper products also present with intestinal blockage. Even worse are the kitties that swallow a string or a thread while playing. Not uncommonly the thread will be attached to a needle. Christmas is a dangerous time for cats as old-fashioned tinsel for Christmas trees is legendary for causing cats distress, and ribbons from packages are a temptation.

Walking through the farmyard when we had a young Golden Retriever, I was halted by the sight of a pile of dog stool populated by a platoon of little green Army men. Where he had found them we can only guess. Thankfully they had passed through his whole system, a passive Army.

What our pets will eat is only limited by our imagination. Especially when they are young, pets will put everything in their mouths, and often swallow it. Owners need to be vigilant and aware to avoid scary and costly surgery, or death of a pet.

Our pets will feast on toxic plants, killer chemicals, like antifreeze, and available objects alike. It is imperative that owners be aware and try to prevent ingestion of non-food wherever possible. Garbage cans with secure lids are a worthy investment.

Beside the dangers of non-foods, there is the danger of human food. Ah, food, the joy of the winter months! It is time to fire up the crock-pots and turkey roasters, deep fat fryers and smokers. In veterinary medicine, these are invitations to Pancreatitis Day. This is the day after any “food-centric” holiday. Typically the day after Thanksgiving is the most popular Pancreatitis Day. This is due to the generosity we feel to our beloved pets, treated as we treat our family; with gravy.

Gravy can’t take all the blame; it is all the foods we humans love that are laden with fat that are the culprit.

We share our bacon, or steak or our gravy and the dogs say, “Yes, please!” But the sad result can be a very angry, painful pancreas that results in vomiting and diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and sometimes death. Many of these cases are from the pet getting “just a bit” of whatever fatty food was shared, or gleaned from an unguarded trash can, with tragic results. Dogs and cats are not equipped with the ability to digest a large amount of fat. For most of their evolution they have had to catch their food themselves, creating bodies designed for the amount of fat found in small rodents, birds and bugs instead of cattle, pigs or deep fat fryers.

Frequently, dogs fed little bits of bacon or fatty meats will have small digestive upsets until one time when it is too much, and the pancreas dramatically reacts, becoming inflamed and painful. When you share your human foods, it is safer to choose something off the plate the pets could have acquired all by themselves. Think, a bit of broccoli, or a green bean. No one celebrates Pancreatitis Day.

Also, avoid; grapes, raisins, mushrooms, garlic, onion, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, avocado, citrus, coconut, macadamia nuts, other nuts, dairy, salty foods, corn cobs and xylitol. That last, xylitol, is a sugar substitute found in many products from candy to peanut butter and can be deadly in minute amounts.

If you have a pet that has ingested something you know they should not have, call your veterinarian, who will likely have you bring in your pet immediately, many times so they can induce vomiting. There are ingestions, for which vomiting is not recommended, and instead therapy should be undertaken quickly.

If you cannot reach your veterinarian, call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline, (888) 426-4435. Have information about what your pet ingested, a label if possible and an amount as best you can guess. Also, know the weight of your pet. Have hydrogen peroxide and an oral syringe in your home pet emergency kit to assist you to induce vomiting.

As always, prevention is the best medicine!

Catherine H. Drost, DVM “Dr. Cate”