DAY 9: Ribbons & Bows
You’d be forgiven for thinking that curly ribbon and gift bows are good toys for your cats – after all, pictures and videos of playful cats rolling around with such objects can be found everywhere online, on television, and in print ads. But we in the veterinary profession also want pet owners to be aware that another place we commonly see kittens and cats playing with Christmas ribbons – or at least the debilitating and expensive results of such activities – is in the veterinary clinics and Animal ERs all across the country.
This article will tell you what you need to know to recognize, react, and prevent this common holiday pet hazard. So dig in, read on, and don’t forget to share this information with your friends and family.
Just like tinsel, the ribbons and bows that adorn wrapped gifts and lay around with your wrapping supplies are typically quite enticing for cats. Something about these wrapping accessories just seems to trigger a cat's inner hunter. Unfortunately, a common result of this 'hunt' is an intestinal obstruction that can sicken or kill your cat.
The long, strand-like nature of ribbons and bows makes them very common “linear foreign bodies” in cats around this time of the year. Linear foreign bodies cause a particular type of digestive tract blockage in pets that are curious, mischievous, and unfortunate enough to eat them.
Treatment for linear foreign body obstruction should always involve surgery. Not just to remove the offending material, but to evaluate the gut for damage and tissue that is beyond repair. The typical costs for such care will depend on your geographical location, your pet's size, the degree of their debilitation prior to surgery, and type of hospital and qualifications of the doctor and nursing staff where the procedure and aftercare are done. Generally speaking though, it's safe to say that diagnostics, stabilization, surgery, and aftercare/hospitalization for cases of linear foreign body obstruction will typically set you back between $1500-3,000+.
If their bowel has perforated and inflammatory fluid and bacteria have spilled into your pet's abdominal cavity, the costs associated with care of their linear foreign body obstruction and septic peritonitis will likely be more in the $4,000-6,000+ range. In these cases, the risks associated with anesthesia/surgery, though necessary, are greater too.
What to look out for if you think your cat's ingested something
Pets with an obstructive foreign body in their digestive tract, linear or otherwise, may exhibit any combination of the following signs:
- Refusal of food
- Decreased energy
- Diarrhea or a lack of bowel movements
- Abdominal pain (often indicated by your pet’s growling, vocalizing, or attempts to bite when their abdomen is touched or you attempt to pick them up)
It’s important to recognize that though these signs don’t automatically indicate the presence of a digestive obstruction, any pet exhibiting any of these signs, in any combination, should be brought for veterinary evaluation. Now whether or not their signs are indicative of the need for a holiday or middle of the night emergency room visit is very much dependent on how long the signs have been present, how severe they are, and a variety of other factors. However, it truly is always better to be safe than sorry and therefore, you should have them evaluated sooner rather than later. It often results in a better outcome and typically a lower overall bill, too. When in doubt, call your veterinarian or local Animal ER.
In some cases of linear foreign body obstruction you may either notice the ribbon or string protruding from your pet's rectum (their butt), or you may notice them incessantly pawing at their mouth. Alternatively, you may notice pieces of linear material within their stools or vomit, or you may notice that ribbon or string is missing from around the house. When the clinical signs mentioned in the list above are combined with the visualizations and realizations mentioned here, the likelihood of a linear foreign body obstruction is high and emergency veterinary evaluation is clearly warranted.
If something is protruding from your pet's butt - read this to find out what to do! If you pull at what's sticking out you can cause further damage to your pet's digestive tract, including perforation of their bowel, with the result of bacteria and intestinal contents leaking into the abdominal cavity causing a painful and life-threatening inflammation and infection within the abdominal cavity called septic peritonitis.
How to prevent ribbons & bows from becoming a holiday disaster
- Don't leave your wrapping supplies out where your pets can get to them. Either put all such supplies away when you are done using them, or wrap all your presents in a room or area that you can close off to prevent your pet's access.
- Don't put gifts with ribbons and/or bows out under the tree until Christmas morning.
- Either don't allow your pets around the tree while you're unwrapping presents, or be very diligent to securely discard any ribbons and bows as soon as they come off the present they're adorning.
- Once all of the gift opening is complete, take the trash bag containing the ribbons and bows to your outdoor trashcan for the most secure disposal.
- Don't allow your pets to play with the ribbons and bows, and advise your guests not to engage your pets in such play either.
- Skipping the ribbons and bows for your holiday and gift decorating all together is by far the safest bet.
Have a safe, wonderful, and joyous holiday!
Ribbons & Bows are Day 9.
Just to be safe check out all the other "naughty" days in the 12 Days of Christmas Pet Hazards series.