My name is Robert Forto and I am the training director of Alaska Dog Works. I am asked all the time about holiday do’s and don’ts from pet owners. While I always offer an article right around Christmas about training Christmas puppies I thought it would be wise to offer some tips to pet owners on holiday safety before the season’s festivities reaches a crescendo. While most of this is common sense, it is the little things that we overlook during this busy time of the year that can turn a joyous season into a nightmare for your pet if you do not take some steps to ensure their safety.
The holiday season can get pretty hectic, and with the decorations and extra goodies around the house, there is a lot your pet can find to get into. Here are a few safety tips to help keep your pets safe and happy during the festivities:
Firmly secure the tree in its stand, and consider wire or twine ties attached to the wall to help secure the tree. You’ll want to make sure the tree doesn’t topple over if, or more likely when, kitty tries to climb the tree.
Dogs and cats will often try to drink water from the reservoir in the stand. The sap from the tree itself may irritate your pet’s stomach, and preservatives added to the water may be toxic. Devise a cover to fit around the base of the tree—even a towel wrapped around the trunk covering the stand will do.[ Rewind: Christmas Puppies? Maybe Not. ]
Research also shows that the chemicals used in producing artificial trees contain chemicals that can be harmful or even fatal if ingested by your pet. While there are many pro’s and con’s to having a natural versus an artificial Christmas tree, this fact alone should make the decision a little easier.
Ornamentation is very attractive, especially to kittens, cats and puppies, but may be deadly. The tinsel, ribbon and glitter can cause intestinal blockages. Protect your pet by placing these items high enough to be out of reach. Packages under the tree may offer the same threat—the ribbons are just too hard to resist, and your pet may end up chewing on them while playing.
Those wonderful goodies
Holidays are the time for lots of baking, and receiving of baked gifts. These items smell just wonderful to your pet. Your dog may help himself to the candy, cookies, or part of the holiday meal if you are not looking. Eating people food may lead to indigestion, diarrhea, or worse. Remember, items containing chocolate can poison a dog, even if it is a small amount.
Remains of the holiday meal left on countertops, tables, and even in the garbage will entice your pets. If there is a way to get to it, be assured your dog will certainly try. Bones from turkey, a roast, or ham may splinter if eaten. Older garbage may even contain enough bacteria to poison a pet. Be careful where the trash is held while waiting to be disposed of.
And of course I don’t need to remind you that begging at that table can cause major behavior problems in the future…
Plants, especially poinsettias, are often used for decoration in November and December. Some of these plants contain toxins that can irritate your pet’s gastrointestinal tract if chewed on or eaten. Eating enough of some plants may poison your dog or cat. In some cases it may be the leaves, in others the stem, berries, or roots. Your veterinarian or behaviorist can help guide you, or you can do a bit of research at the library or online to see if any of your holiday plants may be harmful to your pets.
On Christmas morning when all of those toys are being played with (and soon forgotten, I might add) they contain many hazards for pets. Small toys, balls, marbles, board game pieces, BB’s from the Red Rider BB gun with the compass in the stock that your son just had to have!, and electric cords are all dangerous to your cat or dog.
Taking a few minutes to set some family guidelines and spot potential safety hazards could keep this holiday season from having serious consequences for your four-footed family member.
In the coming weeks Dr. Forto will be publishing and article on training Christmas puppies. His position is that you should never give a puppy for a Christmas present but thousands are given as gifts each year. In this article Dr. Forto will discuss when to train your dog, how to properly care for him and who should be in charge. Just remember that shelters are full of dogs that were once bundles of Christmas morning joy that grew up too fast and were not trained. Dr. Forto and his certified trainers at Denver Dog Works are here to help.
This article is provided as a general overview of the topic. Always consult your veterinarian or behaviorist for specific information related to diseases or medical care for pets.
Robert Forto is a canine behaviorist and the training director of Alaska Dog Works. He can be reached through his website at www.robertforto.com