The holiday season has begun and everyone is busy making plans for a variety of festivities. If you’re a pet parent like me, you no doubt will want to include your dog in your plans. But all the extra activity, decorations and such that happens at this time of year can be stressful and potentially dangerous for your dog. What can you do to make sure their holiday is safe and stress free? Here are some suggestions.
• Be careful with seasonal plants such as holly and mistletoe. These plants are toxic to both dogs and cats, and can cause severe intestinal upset, a sudden drop in blood pressure, breathing problems, and even hallucinations. It’s a misconception that poinsettias are poisonous, they aren’t. If ingested, they will often cause nausea and vomiting, nothing more. Puppies and senior dogs are at most risk for poisoning from these plants.
• Make sure your Christmas tree is secure so it can’t fall over. Keep your dog away from the tree, especially the tree water which contains fertilizers. Place delicate, breakable ornaments out of reach of wagging tails! Watch where you put lights on the lower part of the tree. Dogs can inadvertently get burned or shocked from lights and wires.
• Don’t decorate the tree with food! This may encourage your dog to want to eat the tree, causing a variety of health problems from simple upset stomachs to intestinal punctures and blockages, both potentially requiring surgery.
• Make sure you keep to your dog’s regular routine as much as possible, especially with respect to exercise. In fact, you may want to give him more exercise during this time of year, because of stress. Just like with humans, exercise is a great way to relieve stress in our dogs.
• Give your dog a quiet place to go during holiday parties. Festivities, especially with excited children may be too much for your dog to handle.
• Watch access to sweets and other holiday food, especially if you have a dog that specializes in counter surfing.
• If your dog receives gifts from well-meaning friends and family members, examine them carefully before giving them to your dog. Not all toys, chews, or treats will be appropriate for your dog.
• Last and I think most important; don’t give a dog as a gift. Because of all the commotion of the season, the holidays are not an ideal time to introduce a new dog to the family. New dogs require stability, lots of attention and work to bond with the family. During this time of the year, you probably won’t be able to give a new dog what he needs to become a successful part of your family. Instead, you can give the promise of a new dog, but wait until after the holidays to bring him into your home.
The holidays can be both exciting and stressful for humans and our pets. As such, plan to spend quality time alone with your dog every day. Dogs have a wonderful way of reducing our stress levels, and in turn, they cherish the time we spend with them. In doing so, we both benefit, leading to a happier holiday season for all.
Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat, an intimate and personal boarding, daycare, hydrotherapy and fitness center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit rockysretreat.com or barkingdogfitness.com.