Top holiday-related medical conditions for pets

By , Posted on 19 November 2012

What's worse than having your Christmas tree knocked over by your lovable cat or dog? Having your furry, four-legged friend eat tinsel or decorations off the tree. In addition to the pain and suffering for everyone involved, having your pet undergo surgery for the removal of a "foreign body"  from its intestines will cost you an average of $2,328 per pet, according to the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

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

Top Holiday-Related Medical Conditions of 2011

Examples of Potential Holiday Hazards

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

While it may not be easy to keep your animal friend away from the holiday decorations, you should refrain from spoiling your pet with holiday treats made for people. 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, according to the pet insurer.  (See: "Can I buy pet insurance to cover vet bills?")

In 2011, of the 24,262 claims received by VPI for conditions commonly associated with holiday festivities, 17,421 involved animals with vomiting and diarrhea. (See: "The problem with having people over.")

"Our data shows that most pet holiday accidents or injuries are related to pets eating people food or other holiday objects, such as tinsel, holiday houseplants, ornaments and ribbon," Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI, said  in a statement. "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."

Avoid death by chocolate

Table scraps aren't the only holiday goodies that are off limits for your animals. Another bummer for your pets: no chocolate. Although death only occurs in approximately one in every 3,000 chocolate intoxication cases, the ingestion of chocolate could result in vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.

VPI received 1,020 chocolate toxicity claims in 2011. Of the claims, 227 were submitted in December, a 310 percent increase over the average of 73 such claims submitted during all other months throughout the year. Chocolate toxicity claims had an average cost of $380 per pet.

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Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.


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