It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go, and the gamut of holiday activities –baking, shopping, gift wrapping, parties, and house guests—is in full swing. Busy, busy, busy with many extras vying for your time. As schedules become frantic, how do our pets fare? What happens to the daily walk, the game of fetch, and the quiet snuggle with a favorite human companion? Taking care of your dog in the holiday season requires a bit of caution, because with all the interesting foods and decorations in our homes, there are many hazards.
- The traditional Christmas tree needs to be placed in an area where it is not likely to be knocked over, and secured well. There simply are no perfectly pet-safe ornaments, but glass ones, or easily broken ones should be placed high on the tree. Ornaments with hooks to attach them to the tree often fall from the tree, and pets may catch their mouths on them , or swallow them.
- Most dogs (and cats) are attracted to tinsel, and may try to eat the stuff which can slice up their gastrointestinal system. Sweep up the pine needles that drop to prevent ingestion of needles which can cause gastric irritation. Turn the lights on only when you are home because risk is always there with a live tree. Do not allow your pet access to the tree water to drink.
- Dogs love to investigate and most don’t understand that the presents are not chew toys. Inquisitive dogs may tear open wrapped gifts, and ingest decorative ribbons or strings (not to mention that gifts can be destroyed by a playful pet). It is wise to limit unsupervised access to the area.
- During the holiday season, many lights are displayed, and, with these lights, come electric cords. Curious pets can find these cords interesting and fun , resulting in electric shock or burns.
- Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Dogs may burn themselves or cause a fire if they are knocked over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface, out of paws’ reach. And if you leave the room, put the candle out! Essential oils are highly toxic and should be also kept out of reach.
- Fatty, spicy, and no-no-human foods such as chocolate, or anything sweetened with xylitol, as well as bones should not be fed to your four-legs. Ingestion of high- fat foods or other holiday foods such as yeast breads or fruit cakes with currants and raisins can result in serious gastrointestinal upset. No alcoholic beverages should be left where an inquisitive dog can reach them. Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to the trash where you throw away the string or paper used to wrap the turkey or ham!
- If you have house guests, remind them to keep all their meds zipped up and out of reach. Handbags typically contain many items poisonous to dogs, including prescription meds, pain meds such as Tylenol, sugarless chewing gum, asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins, and hand sanitizers.
Veterinarian Pamela Perry emphasizes that the holiday season is stressful for both humans and canines. “Your dog should have access to a quiet room where he can retreat if he becomes overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle. To keep his stress levels low, maintain his routine as much as possible. Spend a few minutes –one-on-one several times a day, so he knows you haven’t forgotten him. It is likely that it will lower your stress level too.”
Dogs are treasures and are worth making a few compromises and taking a little extra care to ensure a happy, safe holiday for everyone.