The winter holidays are a time for feasting and fun. Naturally you want to share the good times with your dogs, include them in family gatherings, give them presents and maybe some special food treats.
But the holidays can also be treacherous and stressful for dogs (and other pets, for that matter). Even the most innocent items become serious dangers when pets are around. Excited dogs can knock down trees or candles; and ornaments, holiday foods, and even presents can be health hazards.
Keep These Things in Mind So Your Dogs Stay Safe Through the Holidays:
Natural foods may be healthy for dogs, but pine trees are definitely not. Pine needles may look like delicious chew treats but they can puncture a dog’s intestines if eaten. Tree water may contain fertilizers and bacteria that will give your dog nausea or diarrhea.
Your puppy may look totally cute wrapped in tinsel, but ingesting it can block its intestines, requiring surgery to fix. Edible ornaments like cranberries or popcorn strings pose other digestive hazards. Broken ornaments can cut paws, mouths, and more. Artificial trees can’t be eaten but they can still get knocked over, causing injury.
With so many exotic goodies around the table, your dog won’t want to miss out. You know your dog’s proper diet, and while you may allow the occasional people-food treat, that can be a health hazard now.
Don’t let your guests feed your dog scraps, no matter how much they (dogs or people) beg. Many common foods — used in abundance at holiday time — can be poisonous and even fatal to dogs.
Fatty foods like turkey skin and gravy can cause pancreatitis. Onions — a common ingredient in stuffing — are toxic to dogs, and chocolate (especially dark or baking chocolate) can actually kill. Grapes and raisins may cause kidney failure, and alcohol is highly toxic, possibly fatal, so don’t leave half-finished cocktails lying around.
Don’t leave plates of leftovers lying around either. Make sure your garbage bags are closed and inaccessible; gravy-stained tin foil tastes good but can cut up your dog’s insides. Turkey bones can break or splinter and cause similar damage.
Costumes and Toys
Your dog will like its new chew toy but also want to chew on your gifts. Think of dogs as children and follow the same safety advice: Keep them away from small parts and hazardous substances.
And who can resist dressing up their dog in a cute holiday costume?
Well, lots of people; but still, pet costumes are popular. Just make sure any costume is safe and comfortable, and doesn’t hang down for your dog to trip over.
Some dogs are real party animals and love having company over. No matter how much your dog enjoys the occasion, however, holiday parties can be stressful. All those new people, the noise, the commotion, the bright lights. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has good tips on training your dog to respond to all the visitors arriving at your door.
Nonetheless, always provide your dogs with a comfort zone: a safe, quiet room where they can retreat and there’s plenty of water and their own good food and toys. You will both be happier for it.
After the Parties
Nearly 44 million dogs are estimated to be overweight or obese in America. That’s more than half. And like us, your dog may eat more than usual over the holidays.
Pets are very sensitive to excess weight, which can lead to arthritis, high blood pressure, respiratory or kidney disease, cancer, and more. Every extra pound on a dog can equal up to 20 “people pounds,” depending on breed size.
There’s a lot to say on this topic (http://blog.4knines.com/activities-for-your-dog/get-in-shape-now-5-reasons-your-dog-needs/), but at holiday time, just make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise to keep that extra weight off. Walking for weight loss is different than walking for pleasure. For weight loss, keep up a brisk walk yourself and don’t let your dog stop to smell the roses.
You’ll both want to be ready to do it again next year.
Randy Lyman (“The Pet Uncle”) is a pet blogger and co-founder of Style Pets, an online pet boutique with original designs and other accessories for dogs, cats, and other pets. You can follow him on Twitter and Periscope @ThePetUncle. He has been writing, editing, and creating publications on a wide variety of topics for more than 30 years, and won numerous awards for his work. He is fascinated by all the recent research uncovering the inner and social lives of animals, and wonders how humans would like it if an alien race conquered Earth and treated us, for better and worse, the way we treat animals now.