Happy Holidays

Christmas Is A'comin' - Give Some Thought To Pet Safety

Catherine de la Cruz
Reprinted from the GPCC's Pyr News & Notes

Whether you greet the holiday season with joy and anticipation, or with fear and depression, give some thought to the season's effect on your pet. Some advance planning can make the holidays easier for everyone, your veterinarian included.

 " Since holidays always mean good things to eat, some dogs turn into beggars and even thieves when faced with temptation. Even dog-loving guests don't appreciate a drooling dog at their side when they want to enjoy their holiday dinner. Start now to teach your dog the "down/stay" command so he'll lie down quietly on the other side of the room. Practice at every meal! If your dog hasn't become reliable by holiday time, utilize your new dog crate and confine him while your guests are eating, " writes Vicky De Gruy, author of our favorite training article, "Alpha boot Camp."

 While you are at it, teach your dog the command "Leave it!" This is most effective when you see a dog thinking about getting into something. As soon as she turns away from the forbidden item, praise lightly and offer a small treat as a reward. Since this command is only effective when you are in a position to catch the dog, start teaching yourself to put edibles out of the dog's reach - the top of the fridge and closed, above-counter cupboards are out of reach of most Pyrs. If your dog is able to open cupboards and refrigerator doors, go to the hardware store now and invest in some child-proof latches. While there, pick up a new garbage can with a locking lid to keep the dogs from decorating the living room with trash.

The Pets' Holiday Hazards season begins with Halloween when trick-or-treat bags are theirs for the raiding. While it takes a lot of chocolate to make a Pyr-sized dog sick, the plastic candy wrappers can cause discomfort and even intestinal blockage. While we're on the subject of chocolate, remember that chocolate contains an element, called theobromine, that is toxic to dogs. Even one ounce of pure chocolate can be lethal to a small dog (10 pounds or less). Larger quantities of chocolate can poison or even kill a medium or large dog. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolates are especially dangerous. So save the chocolate treats for yourself and guests, out of the dogs' reach.

Thanksgiving brings the danger of too much fat, poultry bones and a surfeit of leftovers. Poultry bones can splinter, puncturing the dog's intestinal tract, excess fat (including the turkey skin) and rich leftovers can cause diarrhea, vomiting and even hot spots. If you want your pets to share the Thanksgiving meal, limit their portion to a tablespoon of gravy and some leftover vegetables (not corn or onions) stirred into their regular kibble. They can skip the pie; a dog biscuit spread with peanut butter is tasty, and much better for them.

If you celebrate Chanukah, or use candles for any of the holidays, be sure they are up high where neither children nor dogs can accidentally knock them over. Christmas trees are very attractive to pets - while we smell the scent of evergreen, they smell birds, and squirrels and other furry visitors and it's the rare male Pyr than can resist "marking" the tree at least once, to claim his ownership of it.

No home with pets should use flocking, "angel hair" (which is often spun glass) or tinsel on the tree. Ingested even accidentally, these can cause intestinal damage leading to death. The trees of long-time pet owners are easily spotted by the clustering of non-breakable ornaments on the lower branches, up to the pet's head-height, with the glass heirlooms safely wired to the topmost branches. The white trim on the lower branches is probably Pyr hair.

If you have a pup still in the chewing stage, ask your hardware store about a Ground Protection Fault (GPF) plug for the tree lights. This will cut off the electricity to the plug if the string gets grounded - in the mouth of a pup, for example. For a small investment, it can prevent electrocution, injury and even death.

Don't put preservatives into the water around the base of a tree; this is a favorite "watering hole" for both dogs and cats, so check the water level daily. If your pup is still in the "bull-in-a-china-shop" stage, consider getting a smaller tree that you can put up on a table. For additional stability, use strong nylon line to cross-tie the tree to the wall or ceiling. Visitors sometimes wonder about the strange placement of ceiling mounted planter hooks at my house - until the Christmas tree is tied to them for stability against pups and kittens!

Finally, keep ornamental holiday plants out of the dogs' reach. Some toxic holiday plants include amaryllis, boxberry, Christmas berry, Christmas cherry, Christmas pepper, Christmas rose, holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, rhododendron and yew. If any of these are ingested, remember that 1-2 tablespoonfuls of hydrogen peroxide given orally to your pet will induce vomiting. Always check with your veterinarian if possible before inducing vomiting.

 Remember that our pets thrive best on a regular schedule. Regular mealtimes, regular bed times, regular attention times, all contribute to the pets' peace of mind. If holiday shopping interferes with quality time with the dog (or the family), give some thought to rescheduling the shopping. If you are one of the many who suffer from depression during the holidays, keeping your pet to a regular schedule will help you as much as it helps him. Physical exercise, regular walks and quiet cuddle-times are good for both of you.

 With some planning, some training of both dog and family, and attention their need for a stable schedule, the holidays can be an enjoyable time for everyone. Oh, while you are making out your Holiday giving list, don't forget a donation to your local Rescue. Happy Holidays to all.

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