Dear Christopher Cat: Once we've finished carving the turkey, may we give the carcass to our cats? I think they'd enjoy removing the remaining meat and chewing on the bones.

Christopher responds: Your cats, and dogs, if you have them, will be better off eating their own food and staying away from your turkey.

Any abrupt change in diet can precipitate diarrhea and vomiting. Fat, whether it's on the carcass or part of the skin or gravy, also can damage the pancreas.

Bones cause countless problems. They often break teeth, and sometimes they slice the gums or cheek.

If a bone gets stuck in the esophagus, your cat will choke and gag. If the bone becomes lodged in the stomach or intestines, you'll see vomiting and decreased appetite. If a fragment gets inhaled into the trachea or lungs, expect coughing and breathing difficulties.

Sharp pieces of bone can puncture the stomach and intestines, causing infection within the abdominal cavity, and bone fragments can cause constipation and rectal bleeding.

Many of these problems require surgical intervention. So prevent trouble by making soup from your turkey carcass.

As you enjoy your soup and realize you probably saved yourself a trip to the veterinary emergency clinic, you'll have one more reason to be thankful.

°°°

Dear Daisy Dog: I take high doses of prednisone and other immunosuppressant drugs to manage my autoimmune disease. Is it safe for me to get a dog?

Daisy responds:
Your health care providers can answer your question as it relates to your own health, but I can share some general information.

Dogs offer unconditional love and support, and we encourage people to go outside for a walk in the fresh air, all part of a healthy lifestyle. So living with a dog has many benefits.

Most people with diseases or medications that suppress the immune system can live safely with pets, as long as they take reasonable precautions.

Start by focusing on preventive health care for your new dog. Keep all vaccinations up to date, because some diseases, such as rabies and leptospirosis, can be transferred from dog to human.

Give your dog a chewable monthly tablet to prevent heartworms and kill intestinal parasites, including roundworms and hookworms. If these intestinal parasites were transmitted to you, they could cause blindness, seizures, organ damage and skin problems.

Fleas and ticks on your dog can cause difficulties for you, too, so use one of the many preventive products available through your veterinarian.

Feed your dog a cooked, commercial diet, not raw food. Raw diets increase your risk of developing a food-borne infection.

Wash your hands after scooping your dog's poop, after playing with your dog and before eating.

Your veterinarian is one of your family doctors, so confiding in your vet about your own health will help ensure that both you and your new dog remain healthy.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.