Christmas crisis: £4100 vet bill for dog who ate turkey

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Peter Spreull
22nd Dec 2021
5 mins read
Vet Dr Peter Spreull shares some typical Christmas cases he's seen, and how much they cost to treat
Vets are ringing alarm bells this Christmas. Every Christmas, in fact.
Pets get into seasonal accidents that shock their owners. Small mishaps can end up needing advanced, life-saving vet treatment.
For example, a staffy eating a bit of turkey bone cost £4100 to save. A cat swallowing a strand of tinsel cost £1800.
Vets do their best to keep prices low, but as small businesses providing the latest technologies, they can’t absorb costs like the NHS.
We spoke to Dr Peter Spreull, companion animal vet at a practice that treats over 17,000 pets across Devon. He shared some typical Christmas cases, all based on true stories.
(Be aware, if you live in London or need an out-of-hours vet, expect to pay more!)

The Staffy who ate a turkey bone

How it happened:
Jess was given the remainder of a turkey drumstick, and swallowed it happily. To her owner’s shock, she suddenly started choking and retching.
How was she treated:
The vets admitted Jess for bloods, x-rays and ultrasound. They found the splintered bone was stuck in Jess’s intestine.
Not only that, there was worrying signs the bone’s sharp edges had punctured through the gut.
Jess was rushed to surgery. The vet surgeon found the bone had indeed punctured through, allowing lots of gut contents to leak into the abdomen.
This had caused a large infection and lots of inflammation (peritonitis). Peritonitis is deadly, with approximately 50% mortality.
The vet quickly removed the damaged gut, and attached the two free ends back together. Jess’ abdomen was flushed and suctioned multiple times until the leaked gut contents was removed.
Jess was hospitalised on fluids and many supportive medications. She was very ill and at times it looked like she may not survive.
Luckily, she improved. After 5 days of monitoring at the vet, she went home and continued to make a full recovery.
How much it cost:
How can it be prevented:
Never feed your pet any cooked bones. They splinter into sharp points that will easily pierce the stomach or intestines.

The cat who swallowed tinsel

How it happened:
1-year-old Tabitha vomited overnight and didn't want her breakfast. She was also a lot more subdued than usual. Deciding something wasn’t right, her owner took Tabitha to the vet.
How was she treated:
Tabitha was very painful when the vet gently felt her belly. X-rays revealed something was stuck in her intestines.
The vet immediately operated to remove whatever was stuck.
Inside her intestine, the vet found a long length of tinsel. When eaten, tinsel can get stuck in bends in pets’ intestines, so the gut gets all folded up. Eventually the intestine can become very damaged and tear.
It was a major, but lifesaving, surgery for Tabitha. She needed to be hospitalised for 2 days with fluids and medicine until she started eating and drinking normally again.
How much it cost:
How it can be prevented:
Cats and dogs enjoy playing with tinsel. They will often try to swallow long strands at a time. Be careful with your pets around the Christmas tree and decorations. Make sure tinsel and other decorations are not easily accessible to be eaten or played with.

The Cocker Spaniel who ate mince pies

How it happened:
While her owner was at work, 9-month-old Jenga decided an open pack of mince pies was too good an opportunity to waste.
Unfortunately, mince pies contain raisins, sultanas and currants. These cause terrible kidney failure and gastrointestinal disease in dogs. Even one raisin can kill dogs of any size — there’s no known toxic dose.
How she was treated:
On arriving home, Jenga’s owner called her vets straight away. Although the vets made Jenga vomit, she’d likely eaten the mince pies hours ago. The toxins had already been absorbed!
Jenga was hospitalised on fluids and medication for 3 days to support her kidneys, with daily bloods and urine samples. Thankfully, the supportive fluids saved Jenga and she made a full recovery.
How much it cost:
How it can be prevented:
Make sure mince pies (and other toxic desserts like Christmas cake and Christmas puddings) are kept on a surface that your pets can’t get to.

The Labrador and Whippet who fought over a new toy

How it happened:
Poppy the Lab and Jarvis the Whippet were both delighted with new chew toys they had been given on Christmas Day.
Unfortunately, Poppy was very possessive of hers and bit Jarvis when he tried to play with it as well.
How he was treated:
Jarvis had a large triangular-shape wound on the front of his left shoulder. The vet agreed it required stitching whilst the edges were still fresh. Jarvis was anaesthetised, then his wound was cleaned and stitched back together.
He went home and felt very sorry for himself the rest of Christmas Day.
How much it cost:
How it can be prevented:
It is very common for dogs to become possessive and guard new toys. Even the sweetest dogs can behave very differently to usual if challenged for them. If you are going to give your dogs toys at Christmas, make sure they are given their own space to play with them without being challenged.

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