When the Christmas holidays come around, I always start out feeling obligated, rather than enthused, to write about their associated perils and dangers to pets.
Since owners hear the same warnings every year and are bombarded with this information from so many other media sources, whatever I say will just be redundant.
Then I remind myself how many first-time dog owners there are out there and if this knowledge was commonly well-known, dogs (and cats) wouldn't keep getting sick, injured or lost year after year. So here's my short-list of holiday and cold weather tips:
While it may be tempting, refrain from changing your pet's diet or giving him high-fat holiday treats or table scraps such as turkey skin, gravy or sweets.
Many cases of acute pancreatitis surface around the holidays characterized by severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
And while a mild case might just call for IV fluids, drugs to control vomiting, nausea and pain, a more severe case many require additional intensive, and expensive, treatment.
Also know your dog. Certain breeds, like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Miniature Schnauzers, are often more susceptible to developing pancreatitis than others.
And tiny toys, older and predisposed dogs can suffer attacks so severe that they can actually send them into shock.
Other holiday foods to beware of are: onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, bones (cooked poultry bones splinter!) and alcoholic beverages left on tables at a dog's eye-level.
And let's talk about your holiday guests. If they can't adhere to your request to not feed the dog, do the smart thing. Remove the dog to the safety of another room or his crate until your guests leave.
That might not be a bad strategy anyway if your dog becomes anxious or barks excessively at strangers.
You definitely want to avoid the potentially disastrous situation of the guest who loves dogs so much that he or she ignores the warning signals, corners your fearful and stressed-out dog and gets bitten for the effort.
And be aware that dogs that are uneasy or just over-excited can dart out unattended doors and travel blocks before they are missed, so make sure that holiday collars do not replace, but are worn in addition to, the dog's normal collar with ID.
To a dog, glass tree ornaments may resemble his favorite ball, but if cracked between his jaws may result in cuts, embedded slivers or swallowed glass and can also cut sensitive paw pads.
A string of lights that is chewed can cause an electrical shock or burn. And watch out for those lethal wire-ornament hangers!
Recently, one of my clients with a new puppy asked me if she should pass on having a Christmas tree this year since the dog isn't trained yet.
I advised her that: a.) it would be easier to acclimate the puppy to the stress and excitement of the holiday traditions if it was allowed to observe and become exposed to them at this age; b.) since the puppy is confined to its crate or pen when unsupervised it is safe; and c.) she should place her extra puppy-pen like a corral around the tree when the puppy is given freedom as an environmental solution. This will get the puppy used to the sights and smells of Christmas decorations while preventing it (and the tree) from being harmed.
By creating an environment where the puppy can only do the right thing, negative learned behaviors are less likely to develop or be repeated.
With a little prior planning and common sense, your dog's safety, or behavior, doesn't have to add to your holiday stress.
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @csi4K9s. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.