Precautions for safe and happy holidays

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column
By: Gail T. Fisher

Being on vacation right after Thanksgiving really shortens the “buying season.” Not being someone who has her Christmas shopping done in August, thank goodness for the Internet and express shipping!

This year and last, we posted a poll on our website asking how much people spend on their dogs’ presents. Although it’s still early, if this year’s poll is any indication of the state of the economy, dogs are doing a little better this Christmas. If you’d like to participate in the poll, log-on to I’ll give you the final tally in a few weeks.

This year’s plethora of catalogs has some amazing gifts for dogs, including cashmere sweaters and other exotic and expensive items too rich (and impractical) for me and mine. I’m not sure Mayday or Cannon could really appreciate a dog-sized, Victorian settee – nor would it fit our décor, such as it is. And the cats would simply use it as a fancy scratching post. But for those whose dogs will benefit from such items, have fun shopping!

This being the last Sunday before Christmas (don’t blame me . . . I’m just a messenger), if you haven’t already bought for your pet, don’t worry about it. Your dog will appreciate a new toy or bed any day of the year just as much as on December the 25th.

Your dog won’t feel slighted or jealous of everyone unwrapping gifts. The best thing for your dog on Christmas Day is a safe haven and some calm attention in the midst of the chaos. If your home is stress-filled and chaotic, to keep the dog occupied, fill a sterilized bone or Kong toy with peanut butter. That’ll keep him busy for a while, and is a great treat for dogs.

Here are some reminders about things to be aware of around the holidays:

  • Food and drink: Chocolate and uncooked dough are potentially harmful, as are rich, fatty foods and alcohol, which can be toxic to dogs. An ounce of 40 proof alcohol can lead to a coma in a small dog. Don’t put drinks on the floor where dogs can sample them. Drunk dogs are not cute.
  • Decorations: Angel hair is made from spun glass, which can cause cuts, and damage your pet’s eyes and nose. If ingested, it can cause intestinal blockage. So can tinsel.
    Artificial snow can cause digestive upset and is a respiratory irritant if your dog inhales it. Wire decoration hangers, staples, tacks and the like are all dangerous if swallowed.
  • Plants: A long list including Mistletoe, Holly, Amaryllis, Bittersweet, Christmas cactus, ivy, and poinsettia, with symptoms ranging from a mildly upset stomach to extreme toxicity, even death. Keep plants out of reach, and pick up any leaves, berries or stems that fall.
  • Wrappings: Tearing paper is great fun for puppies, but swallowing the detritus can be potentially deadly. String, straight pins, glue, tape, polystyrene foam packing – all harmful or potentially fatal.
  • Fire and flame: This seems almost too obvious to mention. Many dogs love the warmth of a fire or woodstove, but your dog’s fur or whiskers can be singed if he gets too close. And protect lit candles from potentially being knocked over by a pet.

Whenever I write about “bewares”, I feel like a storm cloud over holiday celebrations. But that’s precisely what I’m trying to prevent. The bottom line – protect your pets, supervise them when they’re in the room with decorations, presents and food. If you can’t supervise, keep your dog from potential harm by closing doors, using baby gates, or safely confining him in a room or crate.

With foresight and common sense, everyone will have a good time over the holidays – you and your pets.

Happy holidays to all from me, Mayday, Cannon, Jacob and Jonah.

Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2007. All rights reserved.
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