Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Guide To Your Dog Having A Safe Holiday Season

Halloween marks the beginning of a festive holiday season, full of great foods and decorations.  There are many year-round safety considerations for your dog, and it's important to give yourself a refresher course in how to protect your dog from any unfortunate holiday illnesses.

Our dog's digestive systems are more sensitive than ours.  While a table scrap here or there may seem harmless, keep it limited to vegetables, fruit, and scraps of meat that are not the fatty parts you've cut off. If sharing fruit, never pass them the seeds, as many seeds of fruits contain toxins. The "holiday illness" our dogs develop is Pancreatitis; their bodies cannot keep up with all the fatty foods we're passing their way, and they develop a serious inflammation of the pancreas which is painful and will require hospitalization to get their digestive enzymes regulated again.  More on Pancreatitis

Excessive amounts of food, as we allow our pets to mirror our Thanksgiving Day over consumption may lead to bloat.  While over-eating and getting bloated may not be life threatening, a distended abdomen mirrors symptoms of other very serious conditions like Gastric Dilative Volvulus.  When we see our pups with distended abdomens, we always need to treat it like an emergency. More On Bloat and Gastric Dilative Volvulus

Allium, found in onions and garlic, is toxic to dogs.  Many of our holiday feasts ask us to use onion and garlic in the ingredients.  In small amounts it is likely not going to cause a problem (if you look, many dog treats contain garlic), but consumed in large amounts causes acute hemolytic anemia.  A vet said it would take an average sized dog eating half a dozen in one sitting to cause an acute issue.  But it's not good for them.. so just don't do it.

It's always tempting to throw a dog a bone, when we've cooked our amazing turkeys and hams.  When bones are cooked, they more easily can fragment and shard, causing digestive issues and potential punctures in their GI tract.

While I feel like these items are more tempting for our feline friends, pet owners should avoid decorating their Christmas trees with tinsel.  It's easily consumable, and it's hard to pass.  Just today I assisted in a surgery where a dog ate that plastic ribbon we wrap our gifts with, and she needed surgery to remove it.  Keep your wrapped gifts out of your animals reach until they are ready to be opened!

Yep, live trees do rule over fake ones.  However, those needles, as they drop, are tempting for our dogs to lick up.  If consumed, they can put your dogs at risk of small punctures in their digestive tract.  If you have a live tree, stay on top of sweeping up those needles as they fall off.

These are all poisonous plants.  While most people have fake holly and mistletoe decorations, poinsetta plants are everywhere.  If you can't avoid them in your house, be sure they are up where your dogs and cats cannot reach them.

I think most dog owners are aware that chocolate is toxic for dogs.  I think this time of year it becomes important to be sure all your house guests know also.  Having family and friends over, be sure everyone knows not to toss chocolate snacks to your dog.  Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate, but be sure to never share things with chocolate.

Most dogs go through a phase of chewing on wires when they are puppies.  If your dog went through that phase already, remember that adding new lights/wires in your house adds something "new".  Your dog may be inclined to give a chew and risk getting zapped.  Unplug your lights when you are not able to monitor your dog's chewing habits. 

Ornaments are just shiny "balls" waiting to be played with, and potentially swallowed or chewed on.  Personal experience has taught me that if ornaments are very secure on a tree and do not fall off, you tend to be safe... unless your pup is extra naughty and may pull at them.  I have used extra care to secure ornaments to trees in the past to ensure no tempting "shiny ball" falls to the floor.

When there is snow and ice on the ground, many establishments pour salt all over the sidewalk.  If you are unsure if they are using pet-safe salt or not, avoid walking your dog over it.  Friends have experienced painful irritation to their dogs paws after treading over sidewalk salt. 

It's cold again..  never forget that anti-freeze tastes sweet and it needs to be stored in a place where our animals can never reach it.  I'll never tire of warning people about the horrible risks of consuming anti-freeze.

On the whole, when we love our pets we get joy from treating them as humans.  I know some who read this now are already sure they will be buying doggie gifts this season!  Our dogs don't care if being treated as "part of the family" means they eat what we eat.  Their year-round reward is our devotion and love, and tantamount to any of that is our protection and leadership.  Resist the urge to neglect their needs as dogs, and keep unsafe items out of their reach this season!

Toxicology Guide

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