Tis the Season: Keeping your pets safe and happy

By LeRae Haynes –

Sharing a fun holiday season with your four-legged loved ones can be a true delight. It’s the season of giving, celebration with family and friends, great food, outdoor adventures, and social festivities.

Dr. Anna Ree is pictured here with her beloved dogs, Kipper and Dixie. Photo: LeRae Haynes

It can also be a time of potential mishaps for pets. According to Dr. Anna Ree, veterinarian at Animal Care Hospital in Williams Lake, taking extra care and precaution can help make the season fun, safe, and comfortable for all creatures in the household.

Regardless of the soulful pleading expressions your dog may adopt to cajole some Christmas dinner delights out of you, sharing ‘people’ food with them is less than ideal.

“That delicious turkey, ham, etcetera, is actually pretty high in fat and can cause inflammation of their pancreas (pancreatitis),” says Dr. Ree. “This can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and even a trip to your local vet for treatment, getting in the way of holiday plans. Instead, treat your furry friend to those treats made specifically with them in mind.”

She adds that food hazards also lurk on decorated coffee tables and countertops. “Keep all those seasonal desserts such as chocolate and cookies, away from your pets as these can make them sick, too,” she suggests.

“And when the garbage goes out, make sure Fido doesn’t attempt a last-ditch effort to retrieve things like scraps and bones, as these items could become foreign bodies in his intestine that require removal.”

Even holiday home décor, including Christmas trees, can present hazards. Ree suggests that trees be securely placed in a stand, and that overly-rambunctious pets may need to be kept out of that room as long as the Christmas tree is up.

“Cats love to play with string, especially when it’s shiny tinsel hanging from a tree,” she says.“This is a hazard, as they can eat it, creating an intestinal linear foreign body that can strangulate their intestines, requiring emergency surgery.”

The holiday season is a time for everyone (and their dog) to gather together. For pets that are meeting for the first time, it is important to allow them to meet in a safe way, says Ree.

For example, if two new dogs are meeting, place them both on leashes and have a barrier between them, like a baby gate.

“Do this in a quiet place, away from the holiday crowd,” she says. “If they seem to get along, great! You can ‘upgrade’ to removing the barrier. As long as they appear to be comfortable with each other, you can increase access, but new dogs should always be supervised.

“Remember that dogs can be territorial on home turf, and in this case, it’s best to ensure everyone has their own separate space,” she explains.

She states that it is also important to remember that not all pets like to be surrounded by holiday guests, and that it’s a good idea to let your visitors know how to greet your animals if they are shy or nervous around people.

“You can allow these pets a safe place they can escape to during busy visiting times, or even keep them separate from all the hustle and bustle if they are too anxious and cannot be supervised all the time,” she says.“If you know your animals don’t get along well with others, it may be wise to kindly ask your guests to not bring their pets along.”

And it isn’t just the Christmas season that gives us the opportunity to make sure our pets are safe and happy. Winter itself can present some challenges for both people and pets, and cold weather should be considered in relation to the type or breed of your pet, says Ree.

“A short-haired Chihuahua obviously cannot tolerate winter the same way a thick-coated Great Pyrenees can. Consider protective boots for sensitive paws and reduce outdoor time for susceptible pets,” she suggests.

“For outside pets, they need access to shelter, like a house from straw bales, and fresh, unfrozen water. This concept also applies to our livestock.”

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of music with kids.

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