Tips to keep your pets healthy and safe
To those who may have purchased a dog or cat for someone as a Christmas present, I hope this animal was on the wish list. If not, I hope the pet won’t become a sad statistic. Every year thousands of Christmas puppies and kittens are abandoned after the holidays. If you are still thinking about such a gift and the pet is wanted and suits the lifestyle of the recipient, please give one of our lovely orphans a second chance. See their pictures on this website. If you are giving a pet as a present, please take him/her to the recipient the day after the holiday. Because, during the hustle and bustle of Christmas Day, no one may have time for the pet, and the poor creature will feel abandoned on the first day in his new home. Please check occasionally to see how things are progressing, i.e., obedience training. Offer some mentoring if necessary.
Keep your pets warm this winter. Every year outside pets freeze to death, a totally avoidable tragedy. The best option is to bring the animals inside during cold weather. If that’s not possible, provide a doghouse facing away from the wind, preferably double-walled and insulated, and warm bedding. I prefer straw. Hay is softer, but some dogs will eat it. If you need straw, we have a limited amount of free straw at Animal Control, first come first served. Please call Animal Control at 547-7774, and bring a large plastic garbage bag. The other important factor is hydration. Dehydration can lead to death within a short time. The pet loses body fluids rapidly in cold weather and water must be offered at least 3 times/day if you have no way of keeping it from freezing. Ironically, dogs do not always want to drink, thus doubling the danger of dehydration. You may want to flavor the water with something meaty tasting, i.e., canned dog food, or mix in a spoon of milk (not much, because most dogs do not tolerate milk very well and may get diarrhea). Use your imagination, whatever you can put in the water to make him/her drink. A heated water dish works well, but is only safe with non-chewers. In cold weather you need to increase the amount of food somewhat, unless the pet is already overweight. Soak the dog food well, and never give dry food. If you give dry food and the pet does not drink, you will find him dead.
Don’t forget the cats. As for indoor cats, if you don’t provide them with a warm bed, they’ll find a warm spot. But the poor outside cats are not so lucky. So please protect them from the elements and give them warm fluids and well-soaked food, and remember everything freezes quickly. Better to bring them in the house if possible. There is one more category of cats we must not forget, namely, the strays. So many of these unfortunate creatures freeze or starve to death every winter. The members of our group are presently putting our heads together to find a way to alleviate their plight. Cats keep on breeding, and with the longer summers some produce three litters every year. The resulting numbers are mind-boggling. If we could sterilize many cats, the numbers would decrease drastically, but money is the problem. All we have to work with are donations. Any ideas? Please e-mail us or come to one of our meetings held every third Thursday at 6:30 at the BelvidereTownship building,8200 Fairgrounds Rd. (Rt. 76).
The holidays are here and most of us tend to splurge on food. But please, don’t think your pets have to participate in your feasting. Obesity in dogs and cats has increased every year over the last several decades. Table scraps, especially gravy and other creamy stuff, should never be fed to pets. And don’t let the pitiful look in their eyes make you feel guilty. It’s more appropriate for you to feel guilty if you give in, because you are hurting the creature you love! Sure, to your pets, the aroma of what you are cooking and baking is more enticing than pet food. We cannot have everything we want, and the same goes for the four-legged family members. As a small exception, a little piece of lean meat is OK, but no spices and no fat unless you want to clean up a mess. If diarrhea happens, please don’t blame the pet. You gave him the forbidden food. Sweets represent another danger. Artificial sweeteners can quickly kill the pet, as described in “Karen’s Corner” October 2011 (archived), and sugar will put weight on them and cause diabetes in many.
In regard to food intake in general, remember that calories entering the body must be used by the body or they will be stored as fat. Therefore lifestyle is most important. If your pets are laid-back and sedentary, they will need less food to maintain the proper body weight. If they are the hyperactive type, they can eat more, because their muscles use the extra calories. Don’t assume that your pets get much exercise when you are gone. Most will sleep until you come home. Always keep in mind that insufficient exercise coupled with too much food will shorten their lives! Get them moving and practice portion control, and ration the doggie biscuits too.
More on holiday safety. Every year on the days following Thanksgiving and Christmas, veterinarians are busy taking care of problems related to these holidays. Diarrhea from people food, and bones stuck in the throat, top the list. Toys – both dog/cat toys and kids toys - represent the second big hazard. Only costly surgery can remove these items from the stomach or intestines.
For cats, there is one other potentially deadly hazard, namely, tinsel. Some cats are fascinated by the glittery stuff and knock it off the tree to play with, but some will ingest it and it can bunch up in their intestines, forming obstructions. It can even cut into the intestinal wall. Only emergency surgery will save the cat’s life. If the cat is trying to pass some tinsel, don’t try to pull it out. You’ll do severe damage. Head for the clinic immediately. Best prevention: Don’t use tinsel.
Last but not least, don’t let your pets eat leaves of your poinsettia and mistletoe. Both are toxic.
Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe New Year, Happy Holidays!
(Karen’s Corner pet health tips are not meant to replace veterinary care when needed. )
Karen Gadke, Ph.D. (Health Science) is a retired clinical study specialist, medical writer, and lecturer. She has been training and racing sled dogs, many of them rescued huskies, for 30 years. She owns both Siberians and Alaskans. Karen is an internationally published author on animal issues, awareness and education and a welcome addition to AFSBC.
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