Is your family pet ready for holidays?

Published 10:47pm Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas can bring much joy, but can also be a source of stress for ourselves and our pets, as we work to keep them safe and healthy through the holidays and beyond.
There are so many hazards out there just waiting for the curious noses of our dogs and cats to discover. All at once, their familiar homes are filled with new and exciting attractions to explore. Christmas trees with all the shiny ornaments and twinkling lights are especially alluring to dogs and cats alike. Cats seem to think the trees are meant for their pure pleasure as they bat at low hanging baubles, or they climb the tree in search of higher attractions.
It is best to place the tree in a corner and do whatever it takes to assure the pets stay away from it. Low fencing may help, or placing noise makers around the base of the  tree. Watch out for packages under the tree that contain “edibles,” as they are sure to dig those open and eat them.
It is recommended that lower branches be kept void of tinsel, lights and glass ornaments, as the ingestion of foreign objects can cause blockage of intestines that require surgery. There is also the hazard of a pet chewing through a light and getting shocked. Even the needles from live pine trees can cause punctures of a pet’s intestines.
Then there are plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettia that are poisonous to pets if they eat them. Best put those up high as well.
Another hazard is fire caused by curious or rambunctious pets who upset burning candles or get too close to the fireplace.
All of those wires leading to the lights can be a hazard for everyone. It is best to tape them down or place them out of reach of the little ones – pets and children alike.
All of the holiday foods and drinks we so enjoy are not so good for our pets and their sensitive tummies. Dr. David Bryan, of Bryan and Hight Veterinary Clinic, said the most common problem they see in pets during the holidays is caused by people feeding them leftovers. All that turkey, dressing, giblet gravy etc. — those rich foods we like — cause GI troubles, and in an older pet it can cause pancreatic problems.
Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and rich treats and alcoholic drinks can upset their digestive systems, causing diarrhea and vomiting, which none of us want at Christmas.
A second problem the veterinarians see is dog bites from the mixing and mingling of pets. When visiting guests bring their pets, they don’t always get along with the resident ones and fights break out.
“The hustle and bustle and extra guests can cause stress to our animals,” Bryan said. “Dogs feel safest in dark, closed in places. Be sure to provide a quiet retreat for them and try to keep their daily routine and diet as normal as possible.”
When traveling with your pets, be sure you take along all the immunization and health records. Dr. Bryan cautions to be sure animals are secured in cages or on leashes when travelling. He also cautions that when stopping to let pets relieve themselves, you not do it at the heavily traveled rest stops along the interstates. Animals from all over are using those pet areas, and may be carrying diseases that could make your pet sick.  He recommends finding a quiet area where no other animals have been.
Caring for your pets extends beyond the holidays and owners should be mindful of the weather. Do not leave animals out in the rain and cold without any shelter or inadequate shelter. Outdoor shelters should be just big enough for the animal to stand, turn around and lay down comfortably. It should be slightly elevated to keep rainwater from accumulating. The door should face away from the winds and rain and have a protective flap to eliminate drafts. Heat lamps should be used in larger pens, and the best bedding is straw or pine straw, as blankets, towels and rugs tend to absorb moisture and freeze.
Minding these cautions will help you and your pets have a Merry Christmas.

Editor's Picks