Keep Pets Safe and Healthy Over the Holidays

By Kimberly Thomson

The holidays are here! We all love to include our little (or big) furry friends in the excitement of the holiday. When I was younger, I used to get up really early to make my horses and dogs a special meal for Christmas. Of course, other than the unusual excitement and disruption to their normal day, they really had no idea why they got this extraordinary meal. Giving them the treat did more for me than they would ever know.

Trinkets Can Be Harmful

The holidays are the time of year when most people decorate their home with tchotchkes or trinkets. At this time of year, the house is suddenly filled with objects that are new to both adult pets and puppies and kittens. Not only can the animals destroy them, but ingesting whole objects or pieces can cause severe upset in the body that can require immediate treatment, sometimes even surgery to remove objects from the gut or intestines. Pet emergencies during a holiday or on the weekend can cost more than usual because they would have to go to an emergency vet.

If you decorate the house, your pet should be confined to an area where he/she is safe. Baby gates are great for this purpose. Also, please remember that just because your pet may never have eaten or chewed the “chachkas”, they could decide to at anytime. My lovable dog began to chew on things like her leash, rubber bands, and other interesting articles she seems to think I do not need any longer.

Read more about scary ingredients in pet food

Pet Toxins Abound

Other than objects, there are many other things dogs find tempting during the holidays.

Poinsettias: The red Christmas flower is poisonous to pets. My rule is to not keep poinsettias in the house; it is just not worth it.

Chocolate: It is a very common gift to give, but unfortunately it's very noxious to our pets. It contains theobromine, which is in the same family as caffeine and theophylline. It takes, on average, a fairly large amount of theobromine (about 100 to 150 mg/kg) to cause a toxic reaction. Other variables to consider are the individual sensitivity, animal size, and chocolate concentration.

One ounce of milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate, while semisweet contains 150 mg per ounce, and Baker's chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce. A toxic dose of these chocolates translates to:

  • 1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
  • 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
  • 1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker's chocolate

The risk depends greatly on the concentration of the theobromine. For example, two ounces of Baker's chocolate can cause great risk to a 15-pound dog, but the same amount of milk chocolate may only cause digestive problems.

Turkey: Another hazard to be wary of is the turkey. Many dogs encounter major digestive trouble when they get a hold of the bones. With visitors who are not generally there, partying and possibly drinking, your pet may be over excited and partying himself! In this situation, most people aren't paying quite enough attention to their pets, leaving the window open and susceptible to thievery. I know for a fact that my dog will steal anything she can get her paws on when I am not being my extra-vigilant self.

Gifting a Pet for Christmas

Generally speaking, the life span of a cat or dog average between 10 to 15 years. This is a huge chunk of time and needs to be thought about by the whole family. Chances are your 10-year-old will not be able to always care for the pet, so a large part of the responsibility may lie with the parents. As a breeder of many years, I am always wary of parents who want to give a pet as a Christmas gift. I usually rake them over the coals, so to speak, making sure they fully understand the responsibility a pet requires from them and the family. I am also much more likely to say no to them than yes.

Remember that a puppy can take up an enormous amount of your time and effort. Crate training, learning to do their business outside, and the basic training of a pet in general can overwhelm many families. Ultimately it will often be your responsibility to fill in with pet care when your kids cannot. Many children will wear parents down with their pleas for a dog or cat. Do not give in unless you are prepared to care for the animal yourself. Also, keep in mind that depending on the age of your youngest child, they might all leave the nest before the pet passes away. Most kids do not take their pet to university or college with them. If you are not prepared to pick up the slack, consider a hamster or fish.

Read more about managing allergies to pets

Image: Jodie Wilson

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By Kimberly Thomson| December 20, 2014
Categories:  Nest
Keywords:  Pet Care

About the Author

Kimberly Thomson

Kimberly Thomson

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