Canine Holiday Hazards

Some great advice for making sure you and your pet have a happy, healthy holiday!

Dog owners should know the hazards of the holidays

By Denise Baran-Unland for The Herald-News

‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless you’re a dog and you’ve chewed up the holly.

Many holiday plants, including holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, amaryllis and even some potpourris, are poisonous to dogs. However, the list of holiday hazards doesn’t end with the greenery.

“While most of us welcome the sights, sounds and smells of the season, holidays can also be chaotic, especially for dogs,” said John Sullivan, master trainer and dog behavioral therapist with Bark Busters USA in Lockport. “Holiday festivities can interrupt a dog’s routine and present a potentially unsafe situation. But by following a few common-sense tips, the holidays can be cheery for everyone, including the family dog.”

Dogs are such creatures of habit that one can stress the canine member of the family simply by moving the furniture around, said Kristy Dilworth of Smart Dogs Training and Lodging, which offers services to Chicago-area residents, including those in Joliet and Plainfield.

“It gives dogs an insecure feeling because they don’t know what’s going on,” Dilworth said. “Dogs tend to be overlooked, too, so if you get too busy, the dog may be pushed to the side.”

To maintain stability, Dilworth suggests adhering to the dog’s walking, exercise and obedience training schedule. Stressed dogs also pant more, so keep your dog’s water bowl filled with fresh water, Sullivan added.

If you must spread out your decorating over several days, don’t leave the supply boxes on the floor, Dilworth said. Ribbon and tinsel can wrap around internal organs. The paint on dough ornaments is toxic. Snow globes, Sullivan added, may contain antifreeze. A swinging tail can topple candles and cause a fire. Chewing batteries or cords can shock or burn.

“Hide the cords or keep them out of reach and unplug lights when you’re not using them,” Dilworth said.

For the tree, Sullivan recommends anchoring it to the ceiling or the wall to prevent tipping. Hang breakable ornaments near the top, where the dog cannot accidentally ingest a hook.

Before you purchase a live tree, be aware that its scent may encourage your dog to mark. If you do buy one, regularly sweep up fallen pine needles as they too can puncture holes in a dog’s intestines.

And don’t allow the dog to drink the tree water. Stagnant plain water can breed bacteria and cause nausea or diarrhea. Preservatives in the water may also upset the dog’s stomach.

Worried Rex will become overexcited during that family party? An exercise session or nap 30 minutes before guests arrive can be calming. However, if the guests are not familiar with your dog, the dog may act a little hyper. Crating in this case might be the best option.

During the party, watch for stray toothpicks, chicken bones or any other item that could stick in the dog’s gums or pierce his throat or intestine. Keep a tight lid on your garbage can and ask your guests to refrain from tossing out nibbles from their plates.

Not only can consuming unfamiliar rich foods induce vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, some items are downright dangerous. Especially harmful are fatty and spicy foods, bread dough, fresh herbs, xylitol, candy, alcohol, garlic, onion, chocolate, caffeine, raw eggs, raisins, plums, peaches, chips, pretzels, guacamole, ice cream, grapes, macadamia nuts and even toothpaste.

“Dogs stomachs are not like ours, so be careful when your dog gives you the cute eyes and floppy ears at dinner time,” Dilworth said.

So does this mean dogs can’t have any treats or fun? While a teeny nibble of turkey or sweet potato won’t hurt the dog and will allow him to share the season’s exhilaration, it’s better to engage your dog with new and stimulating toys and games.

“You can even get the kids involved,” Dilworth said. “Each day, they can open a toy or small treat and then hide it so the dog has to look for it.”

If your child has not enjoyed the pleasures of owning a dog, think once, twice and 10 times before giving one as a Christmas present.

“A cute puppy might seem like the perfect gift choice, but many of these holiday presents end up at animal shelters,” Sullivan said. “Owning a dog takes a genuine commitment of time and responsibility, and adoptive owners must be ready to participate in training and other activities.”

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