Pet Care Pointers
By DENISE FLAIM
Lost in the holiday shuffle are usually the family critters, and maybe just as well, lest anyone get the bright idea of making them wear faux reindeer antlers. But holiday hazards loom, and here are some to anticipate and avoid:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Cooked turkey and chicken bones are an oft-warned-about danger, as they splinter easily, creating the potential for perforation or choking. Sugar is never appropriate for companion animals, so keep an eye on the cake and cookies. And while many home-feeders happily give their dogs and cats table scraps year-round, those animals who are not accustomed to real food might pay for it later with diarrhea or intestinal upset.
SHINY AND BRIGHT
Lots of holiday decorations can issue a siren call to curious animals. Tinsel, crinkly wrapping paper, glitter-covered ornaments - all can cause serious problems if chewed or ingested. Keep them out of reach. Similarly, never underestimate a dopey puppy's inclination to want to chomp on holiday lights or extension cords.
Dexterous cats are sometimes inspired to climb Christmas trees. Secure your tree to the wall with nearly invisible fishing line.
Dogs can inflict their own special brand of destruction on Old Tannenbaum, from leg lifts to branch tugs. Desperate owners sometimes surround the tree with a metal exercise pen or baby gate.
DEATH BY YOU-KNOW-WHAT
Animals and chocolate do not mix. Bakers chocolate contains higher levels of the toxic culprit, theobromine, than the milk chocolate you buy in the candy aisle, but any quantities of the sweet stuff can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and even death in cats and dogs.
This one is a little out there, but you never know: Even small amounts of Xylitol, a sugar substitute found in sugarless gums, candies, baked goods and toothpastes, can cause liver failure and sometimes death in dogs; its effects are not well known in cats. Make sure that guests leave their pocketbooks and jackets out of reach, lest pickpocketing lead your dog into serious trouble.
Everybody knows about how lethal poinsettias are to animals - except that's just plain wrong: These traditional holiday hothouse plants pose no threat other than some mild irritation if ingested. On the toxic list, however, is mistletoe, which can be serious if you do not seek veterinary attention. Ditto for daffodil and amaryllis bulbs, which are popular candidates for forcing this time of year.
If your animal ingests any potentially toxic substance, contact an animal poison control center. The ASPCA's hotline is a good number to keep on the fridge: 888- 426-4435. There is a $60 consultation fee.
THERE'S THE DOOR
The hustle and bustle surrounding guests can create opportunities for escape. Know where your animals are whenever the door opens and closes. As a safeguard, make sure your animals wear collars with proper identification.
While some animals are crazy about kids, others are less impressed. If your dog has never been exposed to children, don't make the holidays your proving ground.
NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING...
Be aware of how much stress loud parties and unfamiliar visitors can cause in dogs and cats that are sensitive or shy. If yours are not party animals, find a quiet place for their crate, cage or carrier when company arrives.
© 2008, Newsday.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.