- 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. :)