Happy, Safe and Healthy Holidays for our Animal Friends


pet-xmasWith the holiday season in full swing, I would like to give some dos and don’ts with our animals’ wellbeing in mind.

Like me, you may want to share some of the special treats and feasts that happen during this time of year. That is not a bad thing as long as you are wise about what and how much you share; fresh raw or cooked veggies are fine for most dogs but no onions or garlic for dogs or cats and do not expect your dog to be able to digest many whole raw veggies. Fresh fruit is good but don’t overdue it and no grapes or raisins as they can cause kidney damage. Cooked bones of any kind are bad, raw bones are good. So, no cooked, leftover carcasses of turkey or chicken or ham bones. You can give the raw turkey necks, hearts, gizzards etc. as long as your dog or cat knows to chew them well before swallowing. I recommend supervising them.

A good rule of thumb is if it is good, safe and healthy food for you to eat, it is probably okay for your animal friend to eat. Refrigerate and dole out the leftovers or treats slowly over a few days (you can mix into regular meals) so as not to overwhelm their digestive systems and cause loose stools. Avoid giving them the leftover junk parts that you would not eat, like all the skin and fat. Especially with the smaller dogs, you must avoid giving very rich and/or fatty foods as you can cause a serious pancreatitis.

A precautionary advisory to holiday guests about treating your animals may be wise. You may even want to provide some healthy, acceptable treats to your guests so they can openly enjoy rewarding your animal family.

At this time, I am strongly recommending against any jerky, fish or other pet treats made in China.

I like to keep some slippery elm around, a tree root and bark extract, that is excellent in coating the digestive track and stopping those runny stools if you do overdo it. It comes as a powder in capsule form that you can get in most health/supplement departments at grocery stores. You can poke the capsule down, put it in a Pill Pocket or put the powder in their meal.

Be careful not to leave candy treats out in the reach of your animal friends. Most all of us know that chocolate is toxic to our animal friends, especially the yummy dark and baker’s chocolate. Also, a very common sugar free sweetener, Xylitol, found in many gums and candies, is extremely toxic to animals.

Martha Norwalk

Martha Norwalk with her Golden Retriever, Robbie

Gifts, wrapping and decorations: Do not let your dog watch you wrap gift packages and then leave him unattended with those packages. Monkey see, monkey do, except they don’t know the difference between wrapping and unwrapping. You may find your gifts destroyed in the morning. Do not leave wrapped packages out that contain food of any kind as our animal friends have great noses and may be tempted. Be sure to collect all ribbons, strings and rubber band type items as these can be deadly if swallowed by dogs or cats. Be wise about holiday decorations if you have a young or destructive dog in the house, or playful cats. Most could cause problems if chewed on or swallowed.

If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure your animal does not have access to the water at the base if it is treated with preservative. If you have a live, in-a-pot tree, and cats, cover the dirt with wire mesh so they do not decide to use it as a litter box. No breakable ornaments in animal’s reach, please.

If you light real candles, please remember dogs and cats are not usually aware of their tails when passing by. So, supervise and place the candles in areas where critter tails cannot catch on fire or knock them over.

Holiday plants: Poinsettias are not toxic to dogs and cats as we used to think. No need to banish them from your house. It is however, a good idea to not allow your animal friend to eat the leaves as they may cause a mild gastrointestinal irritation. Mistletoe is mildly toxic to dogs and cats. Christmas cactus are not toxic to dogs and cats. Lilies are extremely toxic to cats. Just chewing a leaf can be fatal. As much as I love them, I do ban lilies from my house.

On the chance you may be feeling inclined, do not give live animals as holiday gifts. Ask the potential recipient, honor it if they say “NO” and give a gift certificate if you must.

Now, gifts for our animal friends. My best pick for dogs this year is a HuggleHounds toy. They are plush stuffed animals with squeakers in them. They come in very small to large sizes. They are mine and Robbie’s favorites because they are made from almost indestructible material so your dog can chew them as well as snuggle them. They are available in most pet stores. You can find a store locator on their website at hugglehounds.com. I also recommend a flirt line with a Skinneeez toy attached.

My gift choices for cats are oldies but goodies: a Da-Bird wand toy, Petmate’s Cat Crazies and Spot’s Colorful Springs. Of course, empty cardboard boxes are great too.

May you and your animal friends enjoy the happiest, healthiest and safest holiday season ever!


About Author

Martha Norwalk is an animal behavior therapist and host of Martha Norwalk’s Animal World, Sunday mornings, from 9 a.m. to noon on Alternative Talk AM 1150. She can be reached at Martha’s Canine, Feline and All Creature Counseling at (360) 217-7258 or www.marthanorwalk.com. For a free, no obligation telephone evaluation or to make an appointment for Martha to work with you and your animal friend, give her a call. 

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