While we are decorating our homes and wrapping gifts, we must also take time to make our pets beautiful for the holidays. Some need a bath, but all dogs and many cats benefit from a good session of grooming. Whether we do it at home or take them to a professional, our dogs know when they look especially good. Jane Ardrey of Jane's Dog Grooming in Pine said she hears stories of how the dogs go prancing around the house, showing off, after a bath and clip. When company arrives, we not only want our pets well-behaved, but we want them to look their very best. This is a busy time for groomers, so make an appointment now.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has released some helpful hints and guidelines to keep our pets safe during the holidays. Holiday sweets with chocolate are not safe for our pets.
"Depending on the dose ingested, chocolate (Baker's semisweet, mild and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it can be. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine, as milk chocolate. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as a quarter ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog," reads the ASPCA bulletin.
According to the ASPCA, candies and gums containing large amounts of the sweetener xylitol can be toxic. Ingestions of significant quantities can produce a sudden drop in blood sugar resulting in depression, a lack of coordination and seizures. Aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage. Alcohol can result in a very sick pet resulting in a possible coma and death from respiratory failure.
Poinsettias, formerly thought to be poisonous, are relatively low in toxicity. However, holiday greens and plants are potentially dangerous for cats and dogs. Lilies of all varieties may cause kidney failure in cats. Mistletoe and holly berries can cause gastrointestinal upsets and cardiovascular problems. Ingesting holly may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy.
Prevent your pets from drinking the water in the Christmas tree stand. It might contain fertilizers, which would be harmful. Also, this water acts as a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
If you have very curious pets, consider decorating with more natural decorations such as pinecones, dried nontoxic flowers and wooden decorations.
Traditional decorations, such as ribbons or tinsel, if ingested can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction. This is a very common problem, particularly with cats, according to the ASPCA.
Don't give pets holiday leftovers, advises the ASPCA, and keep them out of the garbage. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages. Greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset and spoiled or moldy foods can cause food poisoning, tremors or seizures. If you want to give your pets a special treat from your holiday fare, give them fresh, raw vegetables and a little meat with no fat. What is good for us is OK for them as well.
Keep your pets on their regular diet and feeding schedule during the holidays. If traveling, take along enough of your pet's food and bottles of water to last during the trip. A change in either can cause stomach upset.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, allied agency of the University of Illinois, is the premier animal poison control center in North America. The specially trained staff assist not only pet owners, but provide treatment recommendations to veterinarians pertaining to toxic chemicals and dangerous plants. The Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day at (888) 426-4435 or visit www.aspca.org/apcc.
Be sure to spend time with and keep a watchful eye on our pets during this busy time. Remember that a daily walk is absolutely necessary. Your dogs will love you for it, but since this is a time when we tend to eat more than we should, we will benefit as well as our pets. We might even decide it feels so good, we will put daily walks on our New Year's resolution list.
We are all concerned about the rash of cat killings and animal abuse we have been hearing about recently. Hopefully, it has ended, but we all need to be vigilant. If you see a suspicious vehicle or person, get a license plate number or physical description and call the police. We should not have to be worried every time our pets want to go outside for some fresh air and sunshine on these beautiful days. But we must be ever watchful.