Holidays: Consider the Stress on Pets

During holiday time we sometimes forget how unsettling all the hustle and bustle can be to dogs and cats. Food and family come to mind, and that means you have to monitor even the “best" dog more closely to make it less stressful for both two- and four-legged family members.

2009 CalendarParties mean lots of food on the table and counter (remember: if you can reach it, your Pyrenees may be able to as well) and dangerous items such as bones, onions, half-carved turkeys, lots of chocolate, and the ubiquitous fruit plate with grapes, raisins and other items that can be toxic to pets. See the Pet Poison Helpline for a list of poisonous items to keep out of your pets’ reach, and keep their number on hand for emergencies: 855-764-7661 (they will charge a $49 fee for phone consultations). Poultry skin and gravy can cause life-threatening pancreatitis. Plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe and holly can be toxic, as can amaryllis bulbs. Ribbons, tinsel and small toy parts (including small batteries) can cause serious internal damage, and if it starts coming out the other end, NEVER pull on it; take the animal to the vet. Make sure your dog or cat can’t drink out of the water at the bottom of your Christmas tree (which should be securely anchored), especially if you’ve added preservative chemicals. Avoid putting food items such as popcorn strings or gingerbread men on the tree where the dog may reach it. Scented candles, commonly used around the holidays, can be toxic if eaten, and liquid potpourri or sachets can be toxic as well as harm their skin on contact.

Families and friends are part of what make the holidays special, but they can be intimidating to your pets. Your friends may not be as dog-savvy as you are, and over-excited children especially can push a dog beyond his “comfort zone” and not read the signals that he is sending for them to keep away. This link will help you identify signs of anxiety in your dog. This is especially important if your dog is not used to children in your home. Introduce your dog to new people (and particularly children) outside, not inside in the foyer or doorway.

Set up a “quiet room” with a crate and/or bed for the dog to retreat to where visitors are not allowed; sometimes merely a gated room is sufficient. If you see your dog becoming nervous (signs such as lip-licking, yawning, ears flat back and tail low with just the tip wagging, or biting his own paws) or spot inexperienced dog owners or children doing inappropriate things such as leaning into the dogs face and/or hugging him, put the dog into that quiet room. DO NOT wait until the dog gets overwhelmed and is forced to react.

If children are walking around with cookies or adults are sitting with plates of food on their laps, the dog should NOT be in the same room. Not only could the dog get hold of something toxic, but the dog may be tempted to grab something out of someone’s hand, which could be misinterpreted as a bite.

2009 Calendar

Children can be especially excited and active during holiday celebrations. For safety’s sake, children must ALWAYS be supervised around a dog and:

— should never approach a dog when he is sleeping, eating or playing with his own toys.

–must never go in a dog’s crate to “explore” or “play.”

–should never feed a dog from the table or walk around holding cookies or candy in the same room as the dog. Make sure they are supervised by an adult when giving treats to a dog, holding it in the middle of their flat, open palm.

–petting the dog should NOT include kissing or hugging, and children should not be allowed to “ride” or lay on the dog.

Now is the time to stock up on items such as a calming collar, Rescue Remedy and Dog Appeasing Pheromones, to ensure a relaxed holiday for both you and your dog. If you feel your dog needs something stronger to survive the celebrations, ask your vet for a recommendation, such as prescription medication, or melatonin or Serene for dogs which can be ordered here.

Just following these few suggestions can make the holidays safer and a lot more enjoyable for you and your dog.