Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Health Care and Holiday Pet Safety

During the Holiday Season, the fun part of enjoying the time with family and friends can be overshadowed with issues regarding your pets. When it comes to taking care of your animal friends, you should know that as wonderful this time of year is for humans, it can be very dangerous for your four legged family members. Dogs and cats especially have very curious natures, and without the proper care extended to them during the Holidays, they can suffer health issues and safety concerns that are much more dangerous than at other times during the year. Watching out for your pets is of paramount importance when it comes to celebrating Christmas, New Years, and other important days.

Holiday foods we enjoy cooking and eating can be a problem for your pet, according to PetEducation.com. Rich, fatty foods, like gravy or grease, can cause problems ranging from stomach upsets to pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas resulting in pain, vomiting, and dehydration. Dogs with this serious condition often require hospitalization for treatment. Chocolate, coffee, and tea all contain dangerous components called xanthines, which cause nervous system or urinary system damage and heart muscle stimulation. Chocolate, with theobromine, is especially a problem because dogs love its flavor. Problems from ingestion range from diarrhea to seizures and death. Unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate are the worst culprits, but all chocolate, fudge, and other candy should be placed out of your dog's reach. Remember, dogs have an exceptional sense of smell – juices on plastic or aluminum foil left on countertops are very tempting. If ingested, plastic or foil wrap (cellophane candy wrappers or food wrap) can cause choking or intestinal obstruction. To be safe, put away food immediately, and pet-proof your garbage. Garbage contains all kinds of other hazards for your dog such as plastic wrap and bags, 6-pack beverage holders that could cause strangulation, fat trimmings, bones, and pieces of ribbon or tinsel. Feed your pet(s) before a party so they will not be so apt to beg or steal food.

What do twinkle lights, tinsel, and wreaths all have in common? (Hint: Christmas is not the answer.) They can all kill your pet, according to the Huffington Post. Apparently the film "Christmas Vacation" took no artistic liberties when their cat chewed through Christmas lights and electrocuted himself... this is a real threat, so twinkle lights should be draped high enough on the tree that pets can't reach them. Same goes for tinsel, which cats love to eat, but apparently can cause their intestines to accordion. Tinsel's not the only intestinal hazard - dried pine needles can actually puncture your pet's intestines. 

All that glitters is not gold – it could be dangerous for your pet, according to Pet Education. Ribbons, yarn, and string can cause intestinal obstruction and bunching of the intestine along the length of the string. These conditions require surgery and can be fatal. Ribbons around your dog's neck may be cute, but they can also be dangerous. Adhesives and glues can be toxic and are often attractive to animals.

Many holiday plants can lead to health problems in dogs and cats, according to Paw-Rescue.org. Among the plants to keep out of reach are holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies. Anchor Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep it from falling on pets. Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are nontoxic. Some folks use screens around trees to block access to electrical cords and gifts. Very important: do not put aspirin in the water (some folks do this thinking it will keep the tree or plant more vigorous). If a pet ingests the aspirin-laced water, his health or even life can be at risk.

Keep other ornaments out of reach of pets. Ingestion of any ornament, which might look like toys to pets, can result in life-threatening emergencies according to Paw Rescue. Even ornaments made from dried food can lead to ailments. And remember, shards from broken glass ornaments can injure paws, mouths and other parts of the body. Put away toys after children open their gifts. Small plastic pieces and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs. Ingested plastic or cloth toys must often be removed surgically. And, avoid toxic decorations. Bubbling lights contain fluid that can be inhaled or ingested, snow sprays and snow flock can cause reactions when inhaled, styrofoam poses a choking hazard, tinsel can cause choking and intestinal obstruction, and water in snow scenes may contain toxic organisms such as Salmonella.

New pets are not good holiday gifts, according to Pet Education. If someone is thinking about getting a new pet, give the new prospective owner a variety of dog toys, food, or books on dog care. You may also wish to give a gift certificate so the person can choose his or her own pet after the holidays. Similarly, if thinking about getting a new pet for yourself, remember pets need routine and a time to bond with you. With its noise, commotion, and special hazards, the holiday season is anything but routine. Think about getting your new dog after the holidays. Why not make the holidays more enjoyable for homeless pets? Contact your local animal shelter to see if you can donate food, kitty litter, toys, or time. When choosing a holiday gift for your special friend, be sure it is safe – no small pieces that could come off and be swallowed. Choose healthy holiday treats for your dog and give them in moderation. Much more detailed info can be found at this site: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2098&aid=932.
Holiday guests and other activity can be very stressful and even frightening to pets. It can also trigger illness and intestinal upset, according to Paw Rescue. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house. And make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out a door when guests come and go. You can reduce stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule. Always make time to care for your pets. Some folks get lax about walking their dogs, and a few resort to letting pets out on their own. This puts the animal in danger, while also leading to nuisance complaints and dog bite incidents. Remind pet owners not to take a holiday from responsibly caring for their pets. When pets are stressed by holiday activity or during travel, they may require more water. Dogs typically pant more when they feel stressed. Keep fresh water available for them to drink.
According to Paw Rescue, If your pet ingests glass, broken plastic, staples orother small, sharp objects, call your veterinarian. In the meantime, you can give your dog supplemental fiber in the form of whole wheat or other high-fiber bread, canned pumpkin or Metamucil, any of which can help bulk up the stools the help the foreigh material pass through the dog's digestive system. Dosages depend on the size of the dog. For Metamusil, try a teaspoon for a small dog, a tablespoon for a big dog. For pumpkin, feed one-quarter to two-thirds of a cup. Some folks recommend feeding the dog cotton balls to help pass the foreign objects, but others in the veterinary field caution against this since cotton balls can compound the problem.
According to the Humane Society, the holiday season includes inclement weather conditions. Follow these tips to keep your pets safe as the temperature falls:

•Bring pets indoors, especially during winter months. Most animals cannot endure winter weather conditions. If a dog must be outside, which the Humane Society of Scott County does not recommend, make sure it is completely protected from the elements. Use straw in place of rugs or carpeting, as these will freeze. Use a heated water bowl, as dogs do not know how to break ice. Give your dog extra food as it will burn more calories trying to stay warm outside.

•During the winter, cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars to keep warm. Before you start your car, bang loudly on the car hood and allow time for the cat to escape to ensure their safety.

•Always keep your dog on a leash- dogs can easily lose their scent during snowfall. Thoroughly wipe of your dog's legs and stomach after taking him outside. This will prevent your dog from ingesting salt or any other harmful substances while licking their paws, and will also prevent your dog's paw pads from bleeding due to snow or encrusted ice.

•Grooming your dog is also very important. Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter, as a long coat will provide warmth. If your dog is a short-haired breed, consider getting him a coat or sweater, or limit their time outside.

•Do not leave animals alone in cars. Also make sure anti-freeze is out of reach at all times and any spillage from cars is cleaned up so your pets cannot ingest the deadly substance.

Additionally, winter in general is a dangerous time for strays. Please call animal control to report the location of strays in your neighborhood. Holidays can create special dangers for your pets. Each year during the various holiday seasons, thousands of pets are seriously injured and/or become deathly ill. It's a busy time ... a time of much planning, shopping, cooking and baking, rushing to and from parties and get-togethers with relatives and friends. Oftentimes people forget about their little four-legged members of the family during the rush and festivities. They are curious and anxious as well, and there are many hazards waiting for their curiosity, according to SnikSnak.com.

With all of the festivities, do not forget to relax and spend some quality time with your pet. They will think that is the best gift of all.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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