We asked our vets: What do you love, what do you not at the holidays?

Veterinarian examining cat in a Santa hat.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that we have quite a few veterinarians involved in operations at Nationwide’s pet health insurance division. As Chief Veterinary Officer, it’s my privilege to work with them all. Having access to such a brain trust, we asked all our veterinarians what they love about this time of year, along with what brings them down.

The response was swift and insightful, and I know it’ll ring true to many of our veterinary colleagues.

In the spirit of true heroes, some of our Nationwide veterinarians opted to be remain anonymous, content to continue their good works under the cloak of invisibility. I’ve used their thoughts below as well, but given them appropriate nommes-de-plume.

If you’re a veterinarian or veterinary technician/nurse, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our work during the holidays. Please … leave us a comment!

Cat with Poinsettia Dr. Jules Benson: “I love the outpouring of affection for our staff from the clients (and pets) we serve all year. It’s incredible how many people think of us as a part of the family, and hugely gratifying. I also love that poinsettias aren’t terribly poisonous because people (and pets) seem to love them.

“What I don’t love … I get frustrated that sometimes pets get left out of the planning around Christmas, whether it’s thinking about appropriate decorations (no linear foreign bodies), how “social” they might be (having lots of people over can cause anxiety in some pets), or appropriate meal planning (I’m sure most pets love leftovers or table scraps, but actually staying away from fatty off-cuts will help prevent those explosive events +/- pancreatitis). Maybe there’s more opportunity for us as a veterinary community to get in front of this with our clients every year?”

Dr. “Empath”: “I love helping pets with arthritis get proper pain management and hearing how well they do! I also love our small-town Christmas night light parade. Our whole practice works together to do a float and hand out candy to our community all while walking dogs dressed up in Christmas outfits while we also dress up.

“On the harder side of the holiday, I find it so difficult to help so many pets over the rainbow bridge, even though I take comfort in knowing I am ending their pain. At the same time, I find it cathartic to be so trusted, helping families through this difficult time.”

Dr. Eric Dobratz: “I had a client who would bring gift cards or cheese/cracker/sausage plates rather than chocolates, and that was amazing. She’d noticed the 14-plus pounds of chocolate we had on the counter and decided to something different.

“One thing I could have done without were the calls from people with large dogs panicking because their large breed dog ate a Hershey’s kiss or a brownie, or a wee bit of fudge. They ‘know’ that ‘chocolate is extremely poisonous to dogs’ (it’s not! As we vets know, darker chocolate + smaller dog = more dangerous). Also, sad to treat so many cats with Christmas present ribbon intestinal linear foreign bodies.”

Dr. “Chocoholic”: “I love seeing dogs and cat patients in festive Christmas attire. It makes me smile! Unfortunately, in two seconds in emergency we would quickly remove their outfits so we could actually examine them and get to work! My other holiday memories include inducing vomiting for massive chocolate ingestion (although, there is something about the aroma of warm chocolate … ).

I will say, though, that the No. 1 thing I could live without at this time of year is the dramatic increase in euthanasias. I’ve seen so many families waiting for their kids to return home to say goodbye to their lifelong pets. That’s the kind of thing you take this home with you and cry days later.”

Boy sitting in comfortable armchair in cozy country house near fireplace and enjoying a warm atmosphere and flame moves. His beagle friend dog lying beside on the white sheepskin.Dr. Greg Myers: “I love homemade treats brought in by clients, Christmas costumes for dogs (I love, many dogs do not), and holiday puppies and kittens.  And when I get home, I love seeing my dog and my son enjoy being by the fireplace.

“What I don’t like so much is all the toxicity cases that go with the holidays, and I hate giving bad news around the holidays, or ruining a client’s holiday travel plans when a pet is sick. At home, I admit that I don’t like it when we forget that our dog can get to some of that extra food on the table, even more so if it’s followed by gastroenteritis/colitis. At least we’re savvy enough to never put chocolate, grapes/raisins, etc., on the table.’

Dr. “Familia”: “I love seeing more and more people travel with their pets around the holidays. It’s fun getting to see where these pets go with their families and hearing about how much a pet loves traveling to see another pet.

On the other hand, working emergency shifts when all the other hospitals are shut down can feel pretty overwhelming. Especially when a pet emergency hits a family on Christmas or Thanksgiving Day, or if the family is traveling with their pet from out of town.”

Dr. Kristi Yee: “I love the giving spirit; clients appreciating our staff and our staff appreciating our clients. The gifts are nice, but the personal notes reminding us of the impact we have on our patients and their families. These are the definite feel-goods for me.

“As others have said – and I think most veterinarians would agree – I could live without the spike in euthanasias. Even when it’s in the pet’s best interest, knowing that owner is going home and trying to celebrate the holidays without their ‘partner in crime’ hurts my heart.”

Dr. “Compassion”: “I love getting all the Christmas cards showing how much the clients pets are part of the family, but then there are the sad cases, especially euthanasias, that are even more sad this time of year. It’s hard to tell a family around the holidays that their pet has a life-ending illness. Some do wait maybe too long, awaiting family members to come home and say their good byes.

“I also have found finances are often extra-strapped around the holidays, andsometimes that leads to euthanasia when there could be treatment options. Very sad for all.”

Black cat looking at dangerous tinselDr. Emily Tincher: “As an emergency doctor, I love hearing the stories behind foreign body ingestions. For example, I recently treated a raisin ingestion that was a result of a gift cookie basket being eaten by a Weimaraner. The dog was fine,but the owner was most disappointed she didn’t get to eat the cookies! I’m also confident in saying that cats enjoy Christmas trees as much as we do, having seen kitty foreign bodies of tinsel, ribbon, and ornaments.

“We are so appreciative of the fellow veterinarians and clients who either verbalize or show their appreciation for us being open 24/7 with food (preferably healthy or non-sweets, I promise non-sweets disappear much faster at my hospital), cards, or kind words. It makes beings away from our families and personal pets easier on the holidays!

“What do I hate? I don’t like how much more financially stressful emergency care is during the holidays, especially for pet parents with children. The holidays tend to compound the fact that few people prepare for medical emergencies for their pets unless they have pet insurance, resulting in more euthanasias for costly but treatable conditions.”


Thanks everyone! You know what I love most? Working with such wonderful colleagues!