Animal Behavior College Blog

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Does Wintertime Blues Effect Your Pet?

Eliminating Your Pet’s Wintertime Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs in dogs and cats, too.

By Stacy Mantle

People aren’t the only ones susceptible to wintertime blues. “PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months,” reported Psychology Today.

Symptoms in pets typically manifest as behavioral changes such as inappropriate soiling, aggression, lethargy and separation anxiety.

Pets are just as likely to become depressed during winter as their people, according to Mary Lee Nitschke, professor of psychology at Linfield College in Oregon,

“If your healthy dog or cat becomes lethargic or loses interest in everyday activities, [he or she]may be suffering from a simple lack of stimulation,” Nitschke said.

It’s Hormonal

Melatonin and serotonin are the two hormones responsible for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“The pineal gland is light sensitive and melatonin is usually secreted at night in darkness—the production of melatonin is actually inhibited when light hits the retina,” said Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.“So in response to low-light conditions found in the winter more melatonin would be produced.This causes tiredness in people, which means it could likely cause the same in dogs or cats.”

If you find your dog is begging for extra treats in winter, it could well be due to a lack of serotonin. As humans, we “self-medicate” with foods such as chocolate or sugar-based snacks, all of which release serotonin in our brains.

“In the brain, serotonin affects appetite, mood and sleep,” Coren said. “Low levels of serotonin are also known to have a distinct effect on the mood of people and animals.”

Sunlight is necessary for the production of serotonin, which is why we often seek out warmer locales for our vacations and why a dog or cat may be found napping in a single ray of sunlight.

Lighting

Shorter days mean less light and that can create problems for pets.

“Give pets extra light during the winter months,” Nitschke said. “Light is intimately tied to the functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands, and can stimulate the body to release hormones that have an uplifting effect on mood. Just a half hour a day on a sunny back porch or window perch may do the trick.”

Special lighting, including “full spectrum” and “daylight” bulbs, are also encouraged for people and pets. Sun rooms, which help to focus the sun’s rays, are also popular among those in colder climates. Max Marvin, owner of Pawsitive Lighting, has even developed a light box to help conquer those wintertime blues.

Exercise

Perhaps the best solution to SAD is exercise.

“Even a walk around the block releases endorphins,” Nitschkesaid

While walking is excellent for those who can get outdoors, it’s difficult if you’re snow-bound. There are other solutions, including treadmills specifically designed for pets, like those from PetZen. And adding a K9FITVest with weights helps tire a dog out more quickly.

New Activities

It’s important to keep your pet mentally and physically engaged during winter. Even if it’s just selecting a new smart toy to implement at feeding time or taking a new route during walks, doing so can help stimulate your pet’s brain and result in increased activity levels.

Specialized toys and equipment can help you and your pet ramp up on endorphins during the cold winter. Try integrating instability training to keep dogs focused, balanced and flexible. You can view an entire line of products devoted to this type of training at DogTread.com, and it’s perfect for athletic dogs, too.

Balancing Acts: Teaching your dog to balance on specially designed exercise equipment can help focus him on the task at hand.

Doga: Master the relaxing art of dog and cat yoga by stretching with your four-legged friends. Yoga is a great way to relax yourself and your pets. Try downward facing dog, pigeon poses or anything that looks doable. Be sure to avoid overexertion and never try any complex poses without guidance from a qualified Doga instructor.

Scavenger Hunts:For some breeds, nothing gets their minds off the weather as a good hunt. Try placing small treats and favorite toys in various areas of the house that might not have been explored as actively as before. Start off easy with one placed under the bed and then move into more complex searches. You might just find you have a future search-and-rescue or scent dog on your hands.

Teach them a New Trick: Dogs love to learn and the lull between hurricane walls is a great time to encourage them with a simple task; Teach (or re-teach) your dog to shake or fetch. While disasters are not an optimal time for animals to learn, a simple activity can help them relax by getting their minds off the danger at hand—and it will prove distracting for you as well. Start with something simple (such as“Sit”) and then move into the more complex tricks that only time and willingness can conquer.

Spa-Day: Master the art of relaxation even while it’s storming outside. Massage is known to release endorphins and increases beta-endorphins in plasma, which encourages healing. Try some simple relaxation massages by sitting next to your pet and gently massaging his paws, neck and shoulders.


About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of Pets Weekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at  www.StacyMantle.com

Sources:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201301/do-dogs-have-winter-blues-or-suffer-sad

http://www.annarbor.com/pets/pets-dogs-cats-animals-sun-winter-light-sol-box-pawsitive-lighting/

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/12/prweb10253795.htm

Cold-Weather Safety for Pets

Cold-Weather Safety

Keep your pets warm, dry and healthy.

By Lisa King

Right now much of the East Coast and Midwest is suffering record cold. We’re all familiar with the dangers this kind of weather poses for people, but pets are even more vulnerable. A simple rule to follow in extreme cold is to keep your pets inside with you as much as possible. Here are some tips to keep dogs and cats safe.

  • Cats should be kept inside all the time, but especially in very cold weather. They tend to seek shelter when it’s cold, and can crawl into dumpsters or other spaces and become trapped. They can also suffer frostbite or hypothermia, become lost or freeze to death.
  • Your dog’s susceptibility to the cold depends on many factors, including age, health, length of coat, breed and weight. If you have a healthy Alaskan Malamute or Siberian Husky, he will love an occasional frolic in the snow. Small, thin or shorthaired dogs feel the cold much more acutely and should wear dry doggie coats or sweaters and possibly booties when venturing outside. These sorts of dogs should go out only to relieve themselves when temperatures fall below zero. Very young or very old pets and pets with chronic illnesses cannot regulate their body temperatures as well as healthy adult dogs. Hypothermia and frostbite on feet, ears or tailcan affect any pet.
  • When you do take your dog outside in the cold, stay with him. On walks, keep him on leash at all times. Dogs can lose their way in the snow because scents they depend on to find their way home are muffled. Make sure your dog has a current ID tag on his collar and has been microchipped. Don’t let your dog walk on frozen water, such as a pond or lake. If he falls through the ice he might die of hypothermia.If he gets wet, use a blow dryer or towel to dry him.
  • If your dog must stay outside for any length of time, provide plenty of unfrozen fresh water. A heated water dish comes in handy. Also provide a sturdy shelter with soft bedding, such as straw. Make sure the floor is raised off the ground and that the door faces away from the wind. A door flap will help him retain heat.
  • If your dog begins shivering or whining, or otherwise appears to be in distress, get him inside immediately and warm him up.If symptoms persist, contact your veterinarian.
  • If you plug in a space heater or light a fire, don’t leave pets near them unattended. Use screens in front of all fireplaces.
  • Antifreeze is very toxic to pets and de-icing salts and other chemicals can get on your dog’s feet and cause irritation. Clean his feet after he comes in from a walk.
  • Cold weather is just as dangerous as hot weather to a dog left in a car. A parked car can turn into an icebox after too long in freezing temperatures.
  • If you park your car outside, check under the hood and make plenty of noise before starting it to make sure no feral or other outdoor cats have sought out the warmth of the engine.
  • Never shave a long-haired dog or cat in cold weather. It may be easier to groom a shaved Persian cat, but she needs her fur to keep warm. Brush your long-haired pet’s coat regularly to prevent mats. If your dog has longish hair between his paw pads, trim it to reduce snow and ice buildup.
  • Make sure all your pets have warm, draft-free places to sleep. Pet supply stores carry heated mats and beds that your dog or cat will appreciate when temperatures are low. Arthritis is aggravated by the cold, so a warm, soft bed can help an arthritic pet stay comfortable.

As the arctic blast that is slamming most of the U.S. recedes and temperatures rise to a more typical winter range, you and your dog can spend more time outside enjoying the snowy landscape. But please leave Kitty indoors.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”

Is Your Dog A Snow Dog?

Snow Dogs

How to keep your canines happy during wintertime romps.

By Audrey Pavia

 

Snow has been plentiful so far this winter, which is good news for dogs who romp in the white stuff. Not only is playing in the snow fun for dogs, but it also helps get rid of excess energy.

Before you bring your dog outside to run in the snow, take some precautions. Snow and cold weather can be hazardous to your dog’s health if you’re not careful.Frostbite is a distinct danger for most dogs’ ears, and snow and ice can cause plenty of discomfort on bare paws. It can also reduce traction, causing your dog to slip and fall.

The best ways to protect your dog during snowy weather include the following:

• Keep nails clipped. The shorter your dog’s nails, the less likely he’ll be to slip on the snow and have ice buildup in his paws. You should have your dog’s nails clipped regularly anyway to help him maintain healthy paws. If his nails are overgrown, cut or grind them yourself, or have it done by your groomer or veterinarian.

• Trim paw hair. If your dog grows a lot of hair between the pads of his paws, take a pair of scissors and cut the hair so it’s even with his pads. This will help attract less snow and ice to his foot. Be careful not to cut your dog’s pads as you are trimming. Make sure your dog is comfortable having his feet handled before you attempt this. If your dog struggles, ask your groomer or veterinarian for assistance.

• Try dog boots. If your dog still has trouble with ice and snow building up in his paw pads, consider rubber or nylon dog boots. These will protect his feet while he walks through snow. If possible, take your dog with you to the pet store when you buy the boots so you can try them on to make sure they fit. It will also give you a chance to see if your dog will actually wear them. Some dogs won’t tolerate boots and will pull them off. Expect your dog to walk funny the first time he wears them. In time, he should get used to the feeling of having something on his feet.

•Dress him warmly. If you have a shorthaired dog, a toy breed with not much hair, an older dog, a young puppy or a dog with health issues, consider dressing him in a sweater or coat before you take him out to play in the snow. If your dog plays rough-and-tumble in the white stuff, check the garment periodically to make sure it’s not soaking wet.

• Give breaks.To avoid frostbite, give your dog plenty of breaks when he’s out in the snow. Have him come inside to warm up for a bit before you let him go back out to play. Keep an eye on the tips of his ears, since these are most sensitive to developing a problem. If your dog’s skin begins to turn pale and feel cold to the touch, get him indoors right away. If the skin becomes red and swollen after it warms up, take your dog to a veterinarian right away for treatment of frostbite.

 


About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visitwww.audreypavia.com

December – Dog Obedience Instructor Program Student Of The Month – 2013

ABC Dog Training Program
Student of the Month
December 2013

Karen Garmon

ABC Dog Training Program Student-of the Month Karen Garmon

When Karen Garmon was just 14 years’ old, she met a woman with lupus who had several service dogs to help her with everyday life. Karen knew right then that she wanted to become a dog trainer to help others in similar situations. However, it wasn’t until recently—when her children were old enough—that she enrolled at Animal Behavior College to pursue her dream of becoming a dog trainer. Karen recently finished her externship and is currently doing her volunteer hours for ABC’s Students Saving Lives program. After her externship, the owner of a veterinary office reached out to Karen to see if she would be interested in teaching classes and working as a behavior consultant. She never imagined she would have such a great opportunity presented to her before she even graduated. She was pleasantly surprised by how things seemed to fall in place.

“The options are really limitless, and the sky is truly the limit,” Karen said. “When you love what you do, and the work is fun, you know you have found your niche.” Continue reading

December – Grooming Instruction Program Student Of The Month – 2013

ABC Grooming Instruction Program Student of the Month
December 2013

Darline Jackie Griffin

Pet grooming program student of the month - Darline Jackie Griffin

Darline Jackie Griffin lives in Des Arc, Ark., and is in the process of completing her externship. She has been working with her mentor on a daily basis since October 2013. Jackie (as she prefers to be called) decided last year to pursue this career because of her love and passion for animals. Prior to attending the ABC grooming program, she worked as a carpenter for 10 years, ran a dairy bar and was also a private caregiver. Jackie loves working with her mentor and is thrilled that she gets to work with animals every day. Continue reading

December – Veterinary Assistant Program Student Of The Month – 2013

ABC Veterinary Assistant Program
Student of the Month
December 2013

Miriam Trent

Miriam Trent - Veterinary Assistant Certification Program student of the month

Miriam Trent lives in Mulvane, Kan., and is the proud “mother”of a pit bull, two guinea pigs and a betta fish. A stay at home mom, when she’s not at the shelter working on her externship, Miriam often goes out to her Mom’s to work with her horses and other animals. Miriam’s life goal is to work for the Humane Society; she wants a rewarding job where she can make a difference. Continue reading

December 2013 Dog Obedience Program Canadian Student Of The Month

ABC
Dog Obedience Instruction Program
Canadian Student of the Month
December 2013

Nikki Headon

Nikki Headon - Dog Training Program Student of the Month

It is not often that people become known within their industry solely by word of mouth, yet that is exactly how current ABC student Nikki Headon became involved in the dog training world. She began doing basic obedience in the Lloydminster area (which straddles the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada) for extremely cheap or sometimes even for free. Around that same time, Nikki began volunteering at her local SPCA. Between her obedience training and volunteering, she quickly became known for her work with particularly aggressive dogs. She was inspired to work with dogs that most people would have given up on. This passion for helping dogs in need prompted her to start her own dog rehabilitation and rescue. Coca’s Promise specializes in helping dogs with behavior issues and has helped many cats and dogs find their forever homes. Continue reading

Top 8 Toy Presents for Dogs

Dogs Can Expect Plenty of Cheer this Holiday Season

Top 8 Gifts for Dogs in 2013

By Stacy Mantle

Don’t forget to buy your canine companions presents this holiday season.

According to a poll from Petside.com, just over half of American pet owners will buy gifts for their pets this holiday season and they’ll spend an average of $46 doing so. Toys and treats top the list as favorite pet gifts, but new bedding, clothing, leashes or harnesses and grooming products make up 12 percent of Santa Paws’ gift list.

Here’s a look at our holiday favorite gifts and stocking stuffers this year.

Dog Harness - Great Holiday Present for Dogs

Wacky Paws Travel Harnesses

1. Wacky Paws Travel Harnesses
When it comes to traveling with pets, you want something colorful and lightweight. This harness comes with a detachable pouch for easy storage of keys, phone and doggy bags while on your walk. They range in size from extra small to extra large and make the perfect harness for active pets. You can choose from light pink, deep pink, green, and blue. MSRP: $39.99 – $54.99

Dog Treat Presents for the Holidays

Honest Kitchen Treats

2. Honest Kitchen Treats
Have your pets been extra good this year? Treat them with a festive, limited-edition container of Holiday Quickies! These one-ingredient treats feature dehydrated haddock, making them grain-free with no fillers or by-products. These healthy treats make the perfect stocking-stuffer for dogs who deserve the purest, most delicious treats this holiday season. MSRP: $9.99

Dog Tote Bag - Holiday Presents

Sherpa Park Tote – Dog Tote Bag

3. Sherpa Park Tote
Fashion meets function for pets on the go. This stylish carrier unfolds into a blanket for lounging on the grass with your pup. Lined with cozy faux lambskin, the carrier also features a side window with privacy flap. Pets can enter from the side or the top with easy zippered access. The entire carrier is machine washable for easy cleaning on the go. MSRP: $54.99-69.99

Dog Bowl Present for the Holiday Season

Top 8 Dog Presents – Loving Pets Milano Dog Bowls™

4. Loving Pets
Every dog should receive a new set of bowls this holiday season, and Loving Pets has a large selection of colors and designs to fit any personality. Milano Bowls™ are dishwasher-safe, resistant-to-bacteria and veterinary-recommended. The fashionable outer shells can be easily matched to your pet’s personality and consider this adorable treat jar from Loving Pets. Loving Pets brings new life to veterinarian-recommended, stainless-steel treat canisters by combining a stainless-steel interior with an attractive poly-resin exterior. MSRP: $14.99

Top 8 Dog Gifts for 2013 - Cycle Dog Collars

Cycle Dog Collars

5. Cycle Dog Collars
If you’re looking for something unique, consider an earth-friendly collar from Cycle Dog. These collars are made from recycled bicycle tires and are some of the softest, longest-lasting collars we’ve ever seen. Each collar features a latch-lock, stainless-steel buckle (which is more than 400 percent stronger than plastic buckles) and even contains a “pup-top bottle opener” for easy opening on the road. Perfect for dogs who are as active as their owners. Choose from a large variety of fun colors and designs. MSRP: $25.00

 

Hear Doggy Ultrasonic Plush Dog Toys

Hear Doggy Ultrasonic Flat Dog Toys

5. Hear, Doggy Ultrasonic Toys
If your dog loves plush squeaky toys, but you have no love for the sound of squeaky toys, the Hear, Doggy! Plush ultrasonic line of pet toys is for you. Hear, Doggy! toys are tuned to an ultrasonic range of 24 to 28 KHz (out of human hearing range) and are available in a variety of characters, both plush (stuffed) and flat (unstuffed). Select designs feature Quaker Pet Group’s proprietary Chew Guard™ Technology, a unique manufacturing process that adds a super tough, durable mesh liner inside the plush as well as reinforced, double-stitched seams. MSRP: $11.99 – $17.99

Dog Bone Toy - 8 Great Holiday Gifts for Dogs

Busy Buddy® Bristle Bone®

6. Busy Buddy® Bristle Bone®
This is a great toy for heavy chewers. Made from durable nylon and rubber, each Busy Buddy toy includes natural rawhide treat rings that encourage chewing. Soft bristles help keep teeth clean as dogs chew, and the natural rotation of disks help keep their attention. These fun toys will keep your dogs busy for days at a price you can afford. MSRP: $6.99 – $19.99

ThunderWorks Thunder Sweater - Dog Sweater by ThunderShirt

ThunderWorks ThunderSweater

7. ThunderWorks Thunder Sweater
We all know the ability of ThunderShirt to ease a dog’s fear and anxiety, particularly in stressful situations (such as storms, having company over or the holidays). ThunderShirt’s patended design is based on the principles of T-Touch and applies a gentle, constant pressure around your dog’s torso, which has a calming effect during stressful situations. Now when you have holiday visitors, you can leave your Thundershirt on your pet and simply snap the stylish ThunderSweater over the shirt for a quick jaunt outdoors in cold, snowy weather. The new ThunderSweater offers all the calming benefits of ThunderShirt, but with added warmth. (Each ThunderSweater includes a ThunderShirt.) MSRP: $59.95

Duck Dynasty Dog Toy

Duck Dynasty Dog Toy

8. Duck Dynasty Dog Toys & Apparel
If you’re looking for a creative and unusual gift for your four-legged friend, we reckon you ought to join the Duck Dynasty revolution. A&E’s show has taken the world by storm and we know you’ll be as happy as a duck-huntin’ dog with afun selection of fashionable coats, T-shirts bearing the favorite slogans of Uncle Si, plush duck toys (shown) and yes, dog beards. Cat-bearding is so 2013; bring in 2014 with a dog beard and Duck Dynasty hat fashioned after your favorite duck commander. Toss a pair of dark Doggles on your dogs, and you’ll be ready for the New Year with “family-certified, redneck approved” duck gear from America’s first family of duck callers. MSRP: $9.99 – $19.99

View Our Top 8 Cat Holiday Gifts


About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at  www.StacyMantle.com

 

Top 8 Cat Holiday Gifts – Cat Presents for the Holiday

Our Top 8 Cat Holiday Gifts

When it comes to giving presents, your cats can be at the top of the list.

By Sandy Robins

Top * Cat Presents for the Holiday 2013

If the toys don’t “wow” your cat, she might play with the boxes they’re wrapped in.

More than 35 percent of cat owners spoil their furry companions with gifts during the holiday season. There’s a wonderful selection of fun ideas in all price ranges and sizes, from stocking stuffers to sculptured cat trees designed to put your feline in purr mode.

Here are our top eight gift ideas:

Cat Gifts for Christmas 2013

Catnip Stogie

1. Catnip Stogie
The room will be smoking with revved up feline action when your cat gets her paws around a stogie of compressed catnip. It’s made from 100 percent organic catnip compressed into a roly-poly shape that’s easy to pick up and toss around. MSRP:$5.99.

Cat Tree Lookout

2. Cat Tree Lookout
You cat can enjoy a simulated outdoor scratching and climbing experience with a cat tree that has a real bark and sisal scratching surfaces and place to snooze amongst some silk leaves, which will also provide endless enjoyment for playing hide and seek. Various designs, styles and shapes are available. MSRP: $119 – $1,299

Top 8 Holiday Gift Ideas for Cats

Frolicat’s Pounce Automatic Cat Teaser

3. Pounce Automatic Cat Teaser
The Pounce is an automatic, rotating, hide-and-seek cat toy featuring Marshal Maus, who zips around the circular path, zooming forward, reversing direction, hiding under obstacles and occasionally twitching back and forth. The unpredictable movement stimulates your cat’s natural instinct to hunt, chase and pounce on prey. It has various speeds and an automatic shut off button after 10 minutes. MSRP: $30.95

Top * Holiday Gift Ideas for Cats

Sherpa Pet’s Leopard Cat Tote Carrier

4. Leopard Cat Tote Carrier
Designed for small- and medium-sized cats, this durable carrier has a flexible frame and tightly woven wire mesh offering excellent ventilation and ensuring that claws won’t get caught in the material. It includes a machine washable faux lambskin liner, offers both top and side entry and has three roomy zipper pockets. It’s also available in black. MSRP: $73

Top 8 Cat Toys for Presents This Holiday Season

Crazy Tail Cat Toy

5. Crazy Tail
Toys that mimic the thrill of the hunt hone a cat’s hunting skills and offer great exercise opportunities. The Crazy Tail is a battery-operated toy that can be attached to a doorknob. Switch it on and the string tail flies all over the place; it’s ideal for multi-cat households. Two AAA batteries are included. MSRP: $18.99

Holiday Tips - 8 Presents for your Cat

SuperCat’s Catnip-infused Paper Bag for Cats

6. Feline Stationary For Fun and Games
The SuperCat™ range of feline stationary items include papers bags, post-it note-styled catnip crumples and scratch ‘n sniff stickers all infused with catnip bubbles that release the irresistible scent as the cat scratches on the surfaces or plays with the paper items. There are catnip markers that can be used to “draw’ on all surfaces, too. MSRP:$3.99 -$8.99

Cat Food Bowls - Top 8 Gifts for your Cat

Loving Pet’s Vintage Black Double Diner for Cats

7. Loving Pet Vintage Black Double Diner for Cats
A vintage-styled brushed metal double diner in a fishbone pattern will add a decorative touch to your kitchen and provide your cat with stylish, but practical dinnerware.The raised diner keeps bowls off the ground to discourage pests and prevents them moving around as your cat eats or drinks. The removable bowls are stainless-steel, bacteria-resistant and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. The stand has a rubber bottom for skid-resistance; it’s perfect for food and water. MSRP: $16.99

Cat Presents for the Holiday - Top 8 Gifts for Cats

The Purrfect Cat House by NekoNapper

8. NekoNapper—The Purrfect Cat House
The NekoNapper is a cozy pet house that wil lquickly become a popular feline snooze zone. It offers privacy as well as a nice lookout to keep an eye on household activity. It’s sturdily constructed but lightweight, so it’s easy to move around the home. MSRP : $70

 

View Our Top 8 Toy Presents for Dogs


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

Holiday Safety Tips

Holiday Safety Tips

Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holidays

By Lisa King

Dog & Cat Safety for Pets During The Holidays

Few cats can resist the temptation of shiny, dangling ornaments.

 

In my last column, I outlined how to keep your dog safe at Thanksgiving. The concerns at this American holiday are mostly about food, but Christmas offers a whole new set of dangers for dogs and cats. When making decorating decisions this season, keep your pets’ safety in mind. Here are some guidelines to follow.

A lot of your precautions will depend on the personalities of your pets.

  • How well-trained is your dog?
  • Is he food-motivated?
  • Is your cat a jumper and climber?
  • Is she likely to try to climb the tree and knock off ornaments?

In any case, place your Christmas tree in a corner to reduce its accessibility to pets. Secure it to the ceiling or a high curtain rod with string or fishing line so your pets can’t knock it over. Move furniture away from the tree so cats can’t use themas launching pads to jump on the tree. If possible, put the tree in a room with a door so you can shut pets out when you leave the house. You can also put a folding gate around the tree to keep dogs away from it— of course; your cat will just scoff at this barrier.

When trimming the tree, leave a foot or two at the bottom of the tree undecorated. Don’t use edible ornaments; chocolate, candy canes, and popcorn and cranberry garlands can be tempting to dogs especially. Hold the tinsel—if swallowed, it can cause serious intestinal problems. Fake snow and flocking are toxic to pets as well. Use mostly unbreakable ornaments if you can. Sparkly, glittery ornaments are very appealing to cats. Don’t leave ornament hooks where pets can swallow them. Clean up any broken ornaments promptly.

Why Candles May Not Be Safe for Cats

Never put real candles on a tree. In fact, be careful where you put any candles. Don’t put them where a cat can knock them over. Don’t leave pets unattended in a room with lit candles; when you leave the room, blow them out. Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen that keeps pets from getting too close.

Keep the area around the tree vacuumed. Both real and fake pine needles can perforate intestines. Use a large, sturdy tree stand and cover it up, since the water inside contains pine resin and possibly flame retardant and other chemicals.

If your cat tries to climb the tree, put foil around the bottom of it and wrap some foil around the base of the tree. Cats dislike walking on foil.

Many other holiday plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Mistletoe; holly; amaryllis, narcissus, and other plants that grow from bulbs; and to a lesser extent, poinsettia, are all on the verboten list. Keep these plants out of your dog’s reach. If you have a cat, keeping things out of reach is more problematic, so perhaps you should forego buying these plants all together.

Pet Safety When Wrapping Gifts

When you wrap packages, shut your pets out of the room. If a dog or cat swallows a ribbon, your vet might have to remove it surgically. Pets can also run into trouble around bits of wrapping paper, Styrofoam and sharp scissors. Put the presents under the tree at the last moment so your pets aren’t tempted to explore them. Empty cardboard boxes, however, make fine playthings for cats.

After you’ve opened presents, clean up all paper and ribbons right away. Small gifts like toys and jewelry that a pet might swallow should be put away quickly, too.

If you have guests over, make sure purses and coats are in a room inaccessible to pets. Dogs have been known to root around in purses and take out vials of medicine.

The best way to ensure a safe holiday for all involved is to think ahead of time about your pets’ safety and take appropriate precautions. A new Christmas toy or two can also provide a distraction and a reward for good behavior.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”