Winter and Holiday Hazards

Well the holiday season is well under way and as we prepare our homes for family and other guests we must remember to keep things safe for our furry residents as well.  The holidays are an exciting time with celebrations galore, breaks from school and work, decorating and gift-giving.  Our pets feel that excitement and energy from us, they notice the smells of baked goods, the giant tree (what? there’s a tree in the house!?), the decorations on the tree and the packages under the tree!  The excitement can make them curious, make them want to investigate these new things and new smells some of which could be dangerous for them.  Here are a few things to keep in mind over the holidays to keep our pets safe in our homes:

  • holiday ornaments, gift wrapping and tinsel can look like bright, shiny toys to our pets so ensure they are unreachable and up high on the tree or the tree somehow blocked with a baby gate when you can’t supervise your pets near the tree
  • holiday plants such as lilies, holly, mistletoe and pointsettias can be toxic to pets
  • alcohol should be supervised and kept away from pets as well as any baked goods containing alcohol
  • holiday foods such as chocolate, baked goods and fruitcakes with grapes and raisins, sugarless gums and candies containing xylitol can all be toxic to pets
  • leftovers and table scraps can be fatty and cause pancreatitis as well as the risk of cooked bones can splinter and cause intestinal damage

It is a good idea to know when your regular veterinarian is open over the holidays and to have a back up plan for when they are closed.  It wouldn’t hurt to find out where your nearest Emergency Vet is and what their hours are, even if you don’t need them for your own pet a family member or guest visiting with their pet might!  Another good resource is the Pet Poison Hotline.  They can advise you in advance based on what you are able to report to them if your pet should be rushed to an Emergency Vet in the case of an incident.  That number is 855-764-7661.  There is a fee and you will be given a case reference # to take to the vet if they feel your pet needs immediate veterinary care.

Even once the holidays are over there are a few extra things we need to be careful around with our pets over the remainder of the winter.  Some things to remember for winter:  keep antifreeze up high and away from where pets can get it, beware of what ice melters/salt you are using, checking vehicles for cats sleeping in the engine space or wheel wells to keep warm, get your dog a coat and/or boots for extreme cold days.  Our pets still need to get out and get exercise but in the cases of extreme cold I’m sure they’d be quite happy to potty in the yard and spend some time with you indoors.

The better prepared you are the easier the holidays will be for all!  Merry Christmas from me and my fur family to you and yours!

Life long commitment

Sharing your life with a pet is a wonderful, rewarding thing.  No matter what type of pet.  Ever since I was a kid my family had a pet, sometimes even more than one.  The first pet I ever recall having was a goldfish, then a hamster, a cat and finally, we graduated to getting a dog!  We knew little about having a dog but what my family did know was that we loved him!  I remember one winter morning he got out the door and was missing but I was told I had to go to school and thought about him all day, out in the cold of the winter.  Luckily a neighbor had found him and taken him in for the day.  I remember being so happy and relieved to have him safely back home!  Having a pet is great for a number of reasons; they provide companionship, in the case of a dog they get you outdoors for exercise, and they can help teach kids about responsibility.  

Having a pet is a big responsibility that you need to consider before getting one.  Are you prepared to care for them for the full length of their life, whatever that number may be?  If the kids who wanted the pet start slacking on their responsibilities of caring for the pet, are you prepared to take over and/or reinforce the responsibilities to the kids so the pet doesn’t suffer?  Are you prepared to give them the time required to train, groom, exercise and take them to the vet?  Are you prepared financially for all of those things as well as the unexpected, such as a serious illness or accident?  Pets should be vaccinated and visit a veterinarian on a regular basis to ensure they are healthy as they have limited ways of communicating to us if they feel unwell.  Regular grooming for certain pets is a requirement as well, especially long-haired dogs or cats.  All dogs and cats will need their nails trimmed, floppy-eared dogs may need regular ear cleanings.   Exercise is essential even for indoor cats, they should have a way to learn, play, explore and move.  Even more so for puppies and dogs, especially any high-energy breeds!  Bored, unexercised pets can become destructive as they will find ways to entertain themselves such as digging holes in your yard, chewing, scratching and destroying items/furniture in your house, demand barking or meowing incessantly.  Even if your pet is somehow limited physically, by an injury for example, there are things you can do to exercise their brains which can be just as exhausting and make for a tired but happy pet.  Teaching your pet basic tricks (yes, cats can learn tricks too!) can build a bond between you and your pet.  You can teach tricks that might be useful on a vet or groomer visit such as give a paw, lie down on your side, or stand still.  DSC_0378

Many people think the responsibility ends after the first couple of years or months and the pet has been vaccinated, has been to one series of basic dog training classes and gets out for a daily walk.   But the responsibility is for a lifetime, you made the choice to bring them into your life so it is up to you to make adjustments for them as they get older or slower, maybe need more attention, need a special diet or a slower, shorter walk.  If circumstances are so bad that you just cannot keep the pet for some reason and there is no other solution, it is your biggest responsibility to find them a sound and suitable home where they will be happy and healthy for the remainder of their life.  

Our pets are only with us for a very short time frame so we need to enjoy them while they’re here with us and keep that promise to provide for them for the entirety of their lives.