December 20, 2011

Reisa Stone: Keep Pets Safe This Holiday Season

December means togetherness, joy, giving---and unique hazards to pets.

To avoid grief and vet bills, plan and implement a safety checklist:
Oh, Christmas Tree! Use string to hang ornaments, not hooks. Invest in nonbreakable ornaments, keep them above pet height, and tie the top of the tree to the ceiling. Block routes to the water in which the tree rests; the preservatives (including aspirin) can be toxic to pets.

Make electric cords inaccessible. Pine needles can pierce pets' intestines. Vacuum frequently, or consider an artificial tree.
Toys Rrrrrr Us. Inspect pet toys. If they look at all breakable, politely decline to let your pet play with them. Also be watchful of toys children use around pets. Small or detachable parts can create havoc in a pet's gut.

Do not feed pets treats made in China. We've now had more than one awful scare about these products. It's perfectly okay to let people know you'd prefer a gift certificate to a pet nutrition store, rather than them choosing toys and treats. This can actually be a relief to non-pet people!
Give Me Some Space. Create a safety zone where pets can retreat should they become overwhelmed by guests' attention. Please don't make it unreasonable amounts of time in an unsheltered and cold yard; give pets their own safe room. Let guests know at the outset that this zone is "off limits" to them.

When I have children to my home, I take them on a tour and gently but explicitly tell them where they may and may not go, what they may and may not play with. It's up to your discretion whether you do this with Uncle Bert :-D

Gated Community. It could save your pet's life to put big signs on your gate, doors, etc. such as, Latch the Gate! and Don't Let the Cat Out! Never underestimate others' lack of experience with animals, or the effects of a little eggnog.
Be sweet but safe. Don't feed chocolate or alcohol to animals; it can be deadly. Make feeding rules clear to guests. Show them where the "safe" treats are kept, and put a limit on those too. 

Don't be a turkey. Keep poultry bones away from your pet. They splinter easily and can damage internal organs. Monitor how guests dispose of leftovers.

Sticky situation. Ban Teflon use in the kitchen. Teflon fumes can kill birds instantly, and cause grave respiratory distress in other animals.

Wet Coast Weather. Weather on the Coast (where I live) can change from hard frost to driving rain in the same day. Keep extra towels on hand to wipe your pet dry. Pay attention to foot pads, which can accumulate road salt or antifreeze. Both are toxic, the latter deadly. Use a damp cloth for feet.

If you anticipate your pet being outside more than usual, invest in a rain jacket and booties. This saves drying time, as well as warding off possible "rain scald," a fungal infection caused by continual dampness.
In snow country, examine paws and hooves for packed snow and cuts from ice fragments. Vaseline and Pam spray can keep ice balls from forming in horses' feet.
Holly Jolly, Not. Holly and mistletoe grow in abundance on the Coast. Both berries are toxic to pets (and people). Leave your pet at home when you gather these plants, and gift them only in non-pet households. Poinsettia is also toxic.
 Presents, Not Pets. Please do not give animals as gifts. This is extremely socially awkward. You're giving your friend a gift they will have to feed, clean and pay vet bills for, for many years.

Relationships among people can become strained to the breaking point over a living gift. For example, that cuuuuute little bunny means your friend has to chew proof their entire home. Pets aren't just an addition, they're a lifestyle.

Many times, the giftee simply doesn't "click" with the pet. Now what? I've heard many times of gift animals being secretly dumped. Conversely, what if they fall in love, but just can't afford vet care, decent food, etc.? Will they have to swallow their pride and ask for your ongoing financial support?
Have A Cool Christmas, Not A Cruel Yule. Shelters are flooded with unwanted pets after the holidays. Even if that special someone has asked for a pet, the holidays are the most stressful time to bring one into the household. Their entry will be filled with confusion and over stimulation, just at the time they most need calm consistency.

A relationship with a new pet can be irreparably damaged by a traumatic introduction. E.g. If they have a "stress pee" on the couch---they'll return to that couch. Young or forever-fragile animals (such as bunnies and birds) break bones when dropped or roughly handled by children.

Give any breeder a wide berth who advertises "Christmas" puppies, kittens, birds, etc. Fast forward that to "Easter" bunnies and chicks. They're only in it for the money, and their animals are much more likely to have genetic and general health problems, as well as behavioral ones.

Knowledgeable breeders do not breed in winter, nor do they breed for impulse buyers. They breed strictly to improve their chosen line, and are ultra selective as to who gets one of their babies. Pet stores, of course, are the most dicey place to obtain any pet. They come from horrific mills, and about 50% die in transport.
Give a loved one the joy of choosing their own pet:
-Give a gift certificate for a shelter pet of their choice, and promise to accompany them. Include a comprehensive book on pet care.
-Give someone who's been saving and planning for a horse: a set of brushes, a certificate for feed or vet/farrier care, etc., then take them on a search. It's a huge part of the fun, and you'll save yourself and a pet potential grief.

As with other animals, there are wonderful horses at rescues. In this tough economy, people are surrendering even very valuable and highly trained horses to rescues. Imagine your loved one's excitement when they open their gift!
-Reconsider a baby animal, at any time of year. Puppies, kittens, foals, etc. are as much work as a human baby. They spend months peeing, pooing, chewing and whimpering. Are you sure your friend wants to walk in the freezing cold every two hours? Or deal with hyper-activity and curtain climbing? Encourage others to adopt mature animals. There are even well trained senior animals out there needing new homes.
-Offer to take your friend to animal shows and classes, or sign up to volunteer at a shelter until the right pet comes along. Ask to audit an obedience, agility, or other class where people interact intensely with pets. Dog, cat, bird, rabbit and other shows are stellar places to ask questions about breeds, behaviors, training and care. Breeder "take-backs" can be an excellent way to adopt a pet. Responsible breeders will take back animals that didn't work out for someone, and rehome them at a reasonable price. Did you know that the gorgeous Portuguese Water Dog Ted Kennedy gave the US President, was a breeder take-back? If you want to shop for a pet this season, a good breeder will hold them till spring.

Recover From the Depression. Feel blue this season? Many people do. How about volunteering time at an animal shelter? Fostering pets saves lives, as it frees up space for incoming animals. Concern for the voiceless and vulnerable can lift you out of bad feelings.

Shelters and classes are excellent educational opportunities for children. They teach responsibility and discipline.

Don't Get Hung Up. It's tempting to leave that gift halter, collar or sweater on your pet. During the hectic holidays, it's also easy to get distracted. Never leave collars or halters on unattended, unless they are the breakaway type. A pet can catch an "accessory" on a fence or furniture corner and choke or get hurt struggling.

Have a pet-safe and Happy Holiday!

Best wishes,
Raisa Stone
Animal Intuitive & Energy Healer

Raisa helps pets with peoples' behavioral problems, all over the world.
Gift Certificates available, starting at $25

Copyright 2012 Raisa Stone
Contact Raisa for permission to reprint. Reprints must be in full, with all links and credits.

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