It's the most wonderful time of the year for people, but not dogs. Thousands of our furry friends end up lost, injured or sick during the winter holidays. Take a few moments to learn how you can easily make this holiday season a safe and happy one for dogs and puppies.
The best way to keep pets safe over the holidays is to think of them as children. Like children, the dangers to your pet depend largely on their age, training and ability to follow simple commands. A new puppy is more at risk because they lack the training and experience to deal with increased holiday activity in a household.
Untrained pups tend to 'bolt' out of an open door or gate and may not be missed for hours. Pups can easily be stepped on while trying to navigate their way through all the extra feet. Children can accidentally injure a puppy during rough play if adults are too busy to monitor them. Prevent injury to your pup by setting up a playpen or using a child safety gate to create a safe place for your pet to access food, water and a potty area away from all the activity.
Dogs of all ages tend to be overfed during the holidays. It's natural for dogs to 'beg' for food. With all the extra cooking and eating, people feel guilty and give their pets lots of human food. This can make them sick and will add to the problem of obesity in older dogs. Never give chicken or turkey bones to dogs. They can splinter causing serious throat or internal damage.
Holiday plants such as mistletoe, poinsettias, lilies and holly can poison or make your dog very sick. These should be placed in areas that cannot be reached by dogs or younger children. Most kids instinctively pluck at plants, taste leaves and petals or offer them to pets.
Dogs that like to chew will try and make a meal of extension cords and electrical wires. Help your pet avoid a shocking experience by purchasing wire and cord protectors. Use pre-assembled Christmas Tree Light Sets. These easily wrap around the tree, tuck just inside branches and allow for connection to electrical sources near the top. This helps eliminate the danger of dangling light wires or loose extension cords under the tree.
Pet Owners that prefer traditional light sets should string their lights from the bottom of the tree up. Connect them to power sources near the middle or top of the tree. Dogs love to lay under or behind Christmas Trees. It's easy for them to become entangled in loose wires causing strangulation, injury to extremities or worse as they try to get loose. If they pull hard enough, the tree will probably fall on top of them.
If you decide on a real tree instead of an artificial one, you will have to pet-proof the area around it. Dogs tend to chew on or eat pine needles and drink tree water. The needles can cause internal damage. Freshness treatments contain chemicals or fertilizer and stale water is a breeding ground for bacteria. Artificial trees pose a risk because of the decorations we place on them. Broken Christmas ornaments and light bulbs can get stuck in a dog's paw or mouth if they are chewed. If eaten, the sharp pieces will probably cause internal damage. Tinsel can cause an intestinal blockage.
Creating a safety zone between your dog and a Christmas tree can be accomplished in several ways. You can cut a real tree down to fit on a tabletop. Artificial trees assemble in sections and can be sized to fit on top of a table. Use gifts to fill in the space below. If you prefer the traditional floor to ceiling tree, screens or portable fencing can be used to keep pets and children away from the tree and gifts.
Most holiday pet problems involve strangers. If holiday visitors are unfamiliar with your pet situation, you cannot blame them when dogs are accidentally let out, given unhealthy treats or allowed to do things they shouldn't. If you're going to allow your dog to mingle, let holiday guests know what is and isn't allowed when it comes to your pet.
Now let's discuss the B word. Despite the best training in the world, it's almost impossible to predict how a dog will react to someone new. A dog BITE can cost you a lot of money and end up being a death sentence for your pet. Think twice before you allow your dog or puppy to roam freely in an area filled with strangers. Apart from biting, young children can be mangled or clawed by larger dogs that are suddenly frightened.
The holiday season is the time for wishful thinking when it comes to gifts, not pets. If you're not sure how your dog will react to seasonal changes in the home, take steps to protect your pet. As every parent or experienced pet owner knows, you only get one chance to protect and care for those you love.