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Pet Parade: Keeping pets safe during the holidays

By AL SWANSON   |   Dec. 5, 2010 at 5:40 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Assuming most pets cheerfully survived the gut-busting Thanksgiving holiday, it's again time to warn of holiday dangers from table scraps to decorations.

Most dogs probably successfully begged for a piece of turkey or ham, but hopefully did not get hold of any bird bones, which can splinter and catch in their throats. Also, you should have skipped handing out chunks of dressing.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns sage and other herbs and spices can upset a dog or cat's gastrointestinal system and, in large amounts, depress their central nervous system.

Bones and fat may be just what your four-legged friends crave, but it's best to keep the table scraps to a minimum since too much food can cause diarrhea and even pancreatitis.

My older dog, normally not a forager, camped out next to the garbage can after dinner but he didn't stand a chance of getting in the self-closing, stainless steel trash repository.

A favorite dog snack is better than table scraps as most people seek to include their pets in the holiday fun. Speaking of fun: What dog owning household doesn't have cloth antlers or a small Santa hat in the Christmas decoration box for the dog or cat?

A poll of more than 7,000 pet owners about their travel plans commissioned by PetRelocation.com found 63 percent of respondents travel at least 50 miles with their pets during the holidays, and 85 percent said their pets influenced where they stayed during holiday travel.

Asked why they brought the pets along, 71 percent said it was "because pets are part of the family and should be with the rest of the family during holiday occasions."

Many pet owners include their pets in gift-giving, Florida Today said.

"They're part of our Christmas tradition," said a woman surveying the selection of pet presents at a pet store in Melbourne, Fla. "They open presents when we open presents."

Some pet stores even had "Black Friday" specials the day after Thanksgiving. A PetSmart survey found most pet gifts cost $3 to $15 and 72 percent of respondents planned to include pets in their holiday celebrations.

Although 1.3 million homeless pets were adopted during the holidays last year, experts warn it may not be the best time to add new members to your household.

Los Angeles dog trainer Jonathan Klein tells Paw Print people should think twice before giving anyone a pet as a gift, especially during the hectic holiday period.

He recommends people avoid making an impulse purchase of a cute little kitten or puppy and consider providing a foster home for a rescue animal, waiting to see how things work out.

One of my neighbors has fostered homeless cats from animal shelters for years. It's a better alternative than a "surprise gift" puppy or kitten ending up in an animal shelter when the holidays are over.

"Millions of pets are given up to shelters because of behavioral issues, so consider investing in professional animal training to prevent problems," advises Lorraine Corriveau, a wellness veterinarian at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine in West Lafayette, Ind. "Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, so obedience training can be beneficial for dogs of all ages."

Petfinder.com assists both shelters and rescue groups in placing pets in foster homes.

Also, pet-proof your home by removing household chemicals, potentially poisonous houseplants (like poinsettias, mistletoe, amaryllis lilies, red azaleas, paper whites and even Christmas trees that contain fir oil), and keep electrical cords, Christmas lights, tinsel, liquid potpourri, chocolate, sugar-free snacks and fruitcake out of reach.

Glass ornaments can be munched on, tinsel, ribbon and icicles can cause intestinal blockages in pets and tree preservatives can be toxic.

"You'll want to make sure your Christmas tree is well anchored so that the pets can't get into it and knock it down," veterinary technician Tiffany Conner, told WHSV-TV, Verona, Va.

If a cat or dog swallows a wad of ribbon don't try to pull it out; call the vet or head for a veterinary emergency room.

Watch the packages and especially presents containing food. My brother's two Labrador retrievers once wolfed downed a holiday package of biscotti wrapping and all.

Holidays can be stressful times for both pets and their owners as some animals are left alone for longer periods than usual and others are exposed to a lot more excitement than normal at family gatherings and parties.

If small children are running around the situation can become even more chaotic. Pets may have to be restricted if too many strangers are around, especially if alcohol beverages are being served.

Topics: Black Friday
© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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