Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday safety tips

There are more pressing things I could blog about at this time of year - like I could tell you how you can buy a goat for a third-world family in somebody else's name as a thoughtful gift, or give something a little different and browse through the HSUS's catalogue, or I could raise awareness for the issue of a single strand of off-white LED lights looking way more depressing than no lights at all, people. But this is a dog blog after all, and I saw some of these on the news the other night and actually heard some things I hadn't known before, so! Here is a list of tips designed to help get your pooch comfortably through the holidays.

  • Digestive troubles are the biggest complaint of dogs during the holidays, and DVM Tammy Smith says that most of this stems from eating rich holiday foods. I'm sure you guys know not to feed your pets too many tidbits - but on the other hand, guests are more likely than owners to sneak food to the dog. Make sure you warn yours not to feed your pet, and if the puppydog eyes become overwhelming, treat the pup to something nice and healthy (or at least, not unhealthy). Remember that chocolate and bones are two of the biggest food hazards. Other risky foods include alcohol and, I've heard, onions and grapes/raisins.

  • Another big danger is that your dog can be lost in all the bustle of the holidays. Try not to lose him in the confusion. Out of sight, out of mind. Your dog can have laid into the garbage and swallowed a bone before you even realize he's been absent for some time. Remain aware of his whereabouts and of potential problems.

  • Keeping your dog on his normal routine is the best way to avoid stress. You also want to make sure he's got a quiet place to retreat to where nobody will bother him, in case the atmosphere starts to stress him out. Frightened dogs can bite, sometimes not intentionally. Feed him his normal dinner at the normal time, and take him for his usual walks. Exercise will wind him down.

  • Christmas trees carry a lot of hazards! I'm lucky that I can just shut my dog out of the room where the tree is, but I'm sure he'd cause trouble if left to his own devices in there. Round ornaments can look just like a ball to a dog, and they might try to grab them off the tree. Glass ornaments can be knocked off the tree by an overactive tail, and if they shatter a dog can cut its paws on the shards. Food ornaments can be mildly toxic, and the type you find on strings - like popcorn, or berries - can cause a lot of problems if ingested. Same with tinsel: tinsel can be a nightmare, causing obstruction and intestinal strangulation. And artificial snow can also be toxic, and cause respiratory irritation. Electric cords should be taped down, out of reach, or covered, and unplugged when not in use. Tree sap can cause stomach irritation, so try not to let your dog drink out of the tree holder - you may want to put down a water dish nearby to discourage him. And needles can't be digested, so they pose another threat; they can puncture your dog's intestines. TIP: Try to "dog-proof" the room as best you can, and it's a good idea to hang ornaments out of the dog's reach, on ribbons rather than hooks, just in case. If your dog can't quite be trusted, you might want to put up a baby gate, or some small decorative fencing around the tree.

  • Toxic plants include: Christmas cactus, poinsettias, amaryllis, hemlock, holly, ivy, and mistletoe. Silk or fake plants would be a worthy investment. If not, keep everything out of doggy's reach, and clean up any dead leaves or berries fast. TIP: Bitter Apple spray is great for anything you don't want your dog ingesting, like the plants and ornaments. It's cheap and effective, and available at most pet stores.

(EDIT: It turns out poinsettias are not toxic! This is a widely-held belief, but it seems the worst that can happen is gastrointestinal distress from having ingested something alien. I wouldn't advise you let you dog scarf on poinsettias anyway because the plant will look pretty silly with half its leaves gnawed off.)

  • Anti-freeze: I'm not sure why you'd leave this lying around, but many dogs (and cats) like its sweet taste. Even a small spill, if lapped up, can be lethal. This must be treated immediately.

  • Salt and other chemicals designed to melt ice on sidewalks and roads can cause burning to your dog's pads. Try to avoid these, and wash his paws when you get home. Dog boots aren't just to make your pup look snappy, either; they'll protect his little feet. You can also get products like "Muttluks Pawstik", a moisturing balm you apply before leaving for a walk, to help protect against snow and salt.

  • It goes without saying that you should supervise a dog around any new toys for the kids! It's amazing what dogs will swallow...

Just one week to go, can you believe it? I hope all your shopping's done by now (mine isn't, oh dear). And I hope you and your families and pets have a lovely holiday - and that your dogs get everything they ask for. :)


Anonymous said...

Wondering if anyone has tried the Pedi Paws ? I saw it at

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Hi netmw,
I'm hearing negative things about Pedi Paws. Some people are very satisfied but others are saying the motor is much too weak and trimming medium to large dogs' nails is near impossible. Here are some product reviews.

I think a dremel pet tool or professional groomer/vet would be best, though for $20 at Walgreens it can't really hurt to try the Pedi Paws! :) I have to admit I actually don't have much experience clipping dogs' nails; my dog's are worn down naturally during walks.

water_bearer said...

The ASPCA has a poison hotline (there's a charge if there's a real emergency), and on their website I think they may still have a list of all the toxic plants and foods for animals. I'm too tired to check right now. Had insomnia last night.
Couple things though -
Poinsettias are not poisonous and they never have been. Again, too tired to look it up, but I believe they got that reputation after a rumor appeared in a paper about a baby nearly a hundred years ago. Funny how things persist, eh? Also, when finally tested for toxicity, I think the conclusion was that you'd have to eat about 8 times your body volume of Poinsettia to get sick. So a baby would have to consume about a bushel-full, and I guess my dog would have to chomp down a couple wheel-barrels full? Anyway, whatever the real numbers, a dog (or cat or baby or adult) is no more likely to get sick from Poinsettias than they are from eating the leaves of something they don't normally eat and the amount needed to cause a fatality is so great that nothing would ever eat that much. The worse that will happen is your dog will have pink bile when he yaks on your kitchen floor in front of your guests.
Also, I think it's wise to just lock up dogs away from all the stuff going on if there are a lot of people. Food falls on the floor, drinks are left on low coffee tables, kids leave wrapping paper and string about, etc.
Oh - and beware of Angel Hair as a decoration. It's actually spun glass. Happy Holidays.

water_bearer said...

Oh yeah... and another thing. My father meant to order Pedi-cure, but ordered Pedi Paws and I borrow it for Layla when I go by them. She's big with bear claw nails and the sand paper used in the tool is not coarse enough to make much of a dent in her. That said, it does work a little and once the nails are down to the desired length, weekly use of this product or something similar would be sufficient to maintain nails if all they need is a little trim.
The motor isn't powerful enough and I do know many dog handlers who use Dremmels, etc. The problem with those tools in the wrong hands is that they have a fixed RPM. No amount of pressure is going to slow them down. Not from a dog nail. So you could very easily, and very quickly, file them down too far. Also, with either product, leaving the file on the nail for more than so many seconds without a rest will actually cause it (and the nail) to heat up. With the PediPaws, I'm sure they were just erring on the side of caution, but with a little pressure, it just shuts off. Good and bad I guess.

L said...

I know it's a cat and this is a dog blog, but it's just another crazy thing people do to move their mutts.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

L: "Holy crap" doesn't begin to cover that. All I can think is thank God the poor creature is up for adoption, and I pray it finds the right home. (And gets a new name.) Poor drooping ears.. :(

I like cats a lot and I even had one, for a very short time - a 15-year-old gentleman who seemed much too old and dignified to be in a shelter. I opened my heart and home to him even though I'm no cat person, and he set about rapidly changing my view on the feline race by being the sweetest roommate I could ask for. He was always in my lap and slept on my feet and I still miss him.

I haven't had a cat since Bear, and as we were together only briefly, I'm afraid my kitty knowledge is still lacking. Is it normal practise to dock a cat's tail? All my common sense says "no", since I know terriers' tails are docked so that their handlers might pull them out of a burrow, and I can't think of any reason for a cat's tail to be docked... I mean, that's a cat's balance and body language. If they wanted a tailless cat they could have found a Manx.

Very, very bewildering, and it pains me to think a pet owner would do these things for no reason at all.

water_bearer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
water_bearer said...

I have to think that the pierced kitten is like the Bonsai Kitty from years ago, or even the more recent website dedicated to hating horses. A hoax. They do make fake studs like that.
As for the docked tail, because we can't see it, I'm sure this so-called "gothic kitty" is someone's idea of raising the hackles of animal rights people for fun.
There are bobtail cats I believe, but all the terriers I can think of off hand with short tails by which owners tend to pick them up in the show ring or drag them out of burrows, occur that way naturally. It's usually the bigger dogs whose tails are docked for some long since forgotten reason having to do with hunting or courtier fashion or some other stupid thing.

water_bearer said...

My nightmare. Someone using Anatolians to make mutts with no clear purpose. What a crock of shit this website is! They even have their own standard and registration for their "Old Time Farm Shepherds" (or is it "Thyme?"). Jeezy creezy.