MANATEE -- Werther's Originals are a caramel-flavored treat that many people enjoy over the holidays.
But one local family has a story of the holidays and pets that is anything but sweet.
It seems the family's dog was able to gain access to an entire pound bag of Werther's Originals and wolfed them all down.
"The candies were still wrapped in foil, which we confirmed by X-ray," said Dr. David Doyens, owner of Manatee Veterinary Clinic.
This story has a happy ending. Doyens decided just to let nature take its course and the dog eliminated all the candies, wrappers and all, and no surgery was needed.
But Doyens and other local vets caution that emergency surgery is a common outcome when pet owners overlook hazards of the holidays.
"I had to surgically remove yarn that a present had been wrapped with from inside a cat," said Dr. Walter Kallenbach of Cortez Animal Clinic when asked to relate one of his memorable holiday vs. pet episodes. "The cat had the yarn sticking out of its mouth. It went all the way through to the intestines."
Dr. Jim Kanzler of DeSoto Animal Clinic has a disturbing pet story.
"The family put out a cheese ball for their company and the family Labrador ate the whole ball," Kanzler said. "The dog vomited, which we expected. But the dog didn't get better. When we took a picture we found the dog had also consumed the sterling silver serving knife that went with the cheese ball."
Pet diet no-no's
Dogs gobble chocolate left unattended during a holiday party, a toxin for them, cats eat yarn, string and tinsel from holiday trimmings, which can obstruct their digestive tracts and dogs and cats both have been known to eat holly, mistletoe and poinsettias, all of which are poisonous to them, the vets said.
"The holidays are not that much different from everyday but there are more things laying around," Kanzler said. "Animals are exposed to more things, like ribbons, small toy parts, human food they shouldn't eat because it is rich and fatty, glow-in-the-dark sticks and plants."
"Chocolate is dose dependent," added Doyens, who
has owned Manatee Veterinary Clinic for six years. "If they take a nibble it's one thing, if they eat a half pound of Fannie May, that's a big deal."
Doyens has also had to treat several dogs which have eaten glass Christmas tree ornaments.
"Obviously, they often have hooks in them," Doyens said of the ornaments. "As for cats and tinsel, any type of linear hanging object will entice a cat. They might play with it innocently, then again, they may eat it and it could create a foreign body in their gut, which is most often a surgical emergency."
Candies sweetened with xylitol, chocolate, grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts are no-no's for dogs and cats, Kallenbach said.
"If dogs and cats eat plants like poinsettias they will vomit and become lethargic, dehydrated and possibly die," Kallenbach said.
Christmas tree icing, bows and ribbons can cause an obstruction or penetrate the GI tract and require surgery, Kallenbach said.
Healthy at holiday time
Keeping the family pet and the Christmas tree apart is a good idea, but how to do it?
"Place the tree in the corner where it is less obvious to the pet and put bells on the bottom branches to alert you of an impending crisis," Kallenbach said. "Keep tinsels, strings, popcorn, cranberries and lights up and off the bottom limbs. Don't put edible treats on the tree. It becomes too enticing to the pet."
Doyens' suggestions begin with keeping toxic food in the closet.
"Keep the chocolate and all holiday food in a closet," Doyens said. "Even put up the left-overs quickly. Keep the pets behind closed doors. Pets will get into anything, even alcohol."
Don't leave candles burning with pets nearby and secure such things as electrical wires, batteries and medicine, the vets said.
"When you have company, beware of leaving the doors open," Doyens said. "Dogs and cats can sneak outside during the confusion and get lost. Most cats are not used to crowds and will dart out. Many a lost dog occurs during the holiday season. Keeping the pet in the back bedroom might be tough love, but it's a good idea."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.