12/03/2013 08:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2013

5 Simple Precautions To Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday Season And Beyond

From VetStreet's Dr. Carol McConnell:

Each fall, Veterinary Pet Insurance gives out the Hambone Award to a dog who has gotten himself into some kind of unbelievable trouble. The Hambone Award was named in honor of a VPI-insured dog who was discovered inside his family’s refrigerator along with a hambone — as in what was left of the ham when he was through with it. The dog escaped with a mild case of hypothermia and maybe an upset tummy.

Just like all the winners of the Hambone Award, that first dog was lucky. As chief veterinary officer at the nation’s oldest and largest pet health insurance company, I see claims every day for the veterinary expenses of pets whose endings aren't as happy.

This year’s Hambone winner, Winnie the Pooch, ate a 2-pound bag of frozen onion rings. The owners, not realizing that onions present a serious risk to dogs and cats — they can trigger hemolytic anemia, a condition that can be fatal if too many red blood cells are damaged — figured their dog would just have a tummy ache. Fortunately, they were right.

Insurance companies know all about risks and how to weigh them. If more pet parents did, we’d see fewer nominees for our Hambone Award. And you know what? We could live with that.

How to Keep Your Pet From Being a Hambone Nominee

Each Hambone winner is awarded a VPI-funded grant of $10,000, provided by the Veterinary Care Foundation, to help pets whose parents can’t afford care. While I’m sure you would be happy to help other pet parents in need, I’m just as sure you’d rather your pet’s problem not be the reason you were able to do so. I'd like to share five tips for keeping your pet out of the ER, based on an overview of all our Hambone nominees over the years.

List courtesy of VetStreet

5 Simple Ways to Help Keep Your Pet Safe

In the end, it’s all about relative risk. The more you know, the safer your pet will be. Doubly so if you act on your knowledge to prevent medical emergencies. And while both your veterinarian and those of us in the pet health insurance industry appreciate your business, we’d much rather be in the business of helping you keep your pet healthy.

There’s no way to protect your pet from everything, but if you work just on these five areas, you’ll be protecting yours from a lot of risky business.

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