By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record December 5, 2009
My dogs really seem to enjoy receiving gifts. Any time that I purchase a new stuffed animal or dog bed, it is like nothing else they have exists, at least for 5 to 10 minutes.
All jokes aside, there are some things to consider for health and safety when getting or making a gift for your cherished canine and feline companions.
Make sure there are no small pieces or sharp components that can be easily swallowed. Many dogs chew their toys vigorously. Cat toys often come with bells, strings, and feathers that are easily ingested. If a toy has small pieces that can be easily pulled off or chewed off, don't purchase it. Any such item if ingested can cause serious health issues including vomiting, diarrhea, toxicity, intestinal tears, obstruction, and even death.
Make sure any treats you purchase or bake are safe to eat. Many dogs do not handle rawhide well. If your dog inhales things without chewing thoroughly, significant digestive upset and blockages can occur. When purchasing chew treats for dogs, I recommend products made in the USA because they typically have higher safety standards. If you bake your own treats for your dog or cat, do not include any chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, Macadamia nuts, avocado, or artificial sweeteners.
Don't give your pets any treats from the holiday table, especially items that are high in fat or spicy, as these can cause Pancreatitis. Do not give any chicken or fish bones, as these can easily break and lodge in throats, cause tears, or blockages.
Help to keep your pets warm and comfortable this holiday season. Little dogs are often cold, and may enjoy the warmth of a sweater or jacket. Make sure the neck and leg openings are big enough, and that your pet can move around comfortably. Any size dog or cat will enjoy the comfort of a soft blanket or bed. Don't let your pet get close to the fire place, or lay directly on heat elements.
This can be a great time of year to get new daily-use items. If you are considering a new food bowl, I suggest a stainless steel one because it is easier to disinfect, and doesn't trigger allergies. Plastic dishes can be difficult to fully clean, and can some some skin reactions. Ceramic dishes can also cause skin issues. Check your pets water frequently, as water can freeze on cold nights. A new leash and collar will keep exercise for you and your companion on your mind.
Some caregivers like to provide medicinal and medical care during the holiday season. A day at the grooming spa can be relaxing and therapeutic for your companions. A wellness exam is a great idea any time of the year. And dental cleanings can extend the health, comfort, and quality of life for your dog or cat.
Remember that the most important gift that you can give to your dog or cat is your love.