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Keep pets safe, happy during the holidays
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The holiday season can be just as much fun for pets as it is for their owners if they are treated with love and care.
Dr. Joey Burt, associate clinical professor and hospital director at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said pets should be treated as small children and not be kept outside in extreme weather.
“Temperatures dropping below 40 degrees can become life-threatening, depending on the exposure, pet’s age and other factors, so keep trips outside short and the pet warmed or dried immediately upon returning indoors afterwards,” Burt said.
If the pet must stay outside, always provide shelter from the elements. The shelter should be a warm, solid, wind-protected enclosure that is elevated off the ground and contains sufficient, clean bedding.
Christmas trees and the decorations on them can be serious temptations for pets.
“Cats especially like tinsel, ribbons and evergreen needles from real or fake trees. These can be extremely dangerous because they can cause serious stomach problems,” Burt said. “Holiday plants that are toxic include holly, mistletoe and poinsettias. Avoidance is the best way to prevent problems.”
Holiday parties, as fun as they are, can cause some pets to become overwhelmed, he said.
“Some may do well if allowed to seek seclusion either elsewhere in the home or in their crates,” Burt said. “If a pet seeks this solitude, keep guests from invading its space. However, some pets may require boarding while the event is taking place. For the extremely anxious pet, veterinarian-prescribed, antianxiety medication may be an option.”
Even if a pet is comfortable with strangers, owners should ensure the pets are not exposed to dangerous food or drink, Burt said.
Many pets are treated like family when it comes to buying gifts for the holidays.
“Generally, any of the pet treats designed to be eaten and that are manufactured by a trustworthy pet food company are safe,” Burt said. “Some exceptions include rawhides, bones, hooves and rope toys, which can carry bacteria, are hard to digest and can fracture teeth if consumed too often. Just like in people, keep treats to a minimum.”
Some families will be receiving their first pets this year. Dr. Christine Bryan, assistant clinical professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, recommended adopting a pet from a local shelter instead of purchasing one.
“Check out a shelter or a rescue organization before you buy a pet. Many individuals look for purebred pets for purchase, but what people do not know is that shelters also carry purebreds,” she said.
There are numerous other benefits to adopting a rescue animal, Bryan said. Many of them already have had all of their shots and have been spayed or neutered. These pets have gone through behavioral tests, and older animals may already be house trained.
During the holidays, homes are filled with special foods. Bryan cautioned against feeding table food to pets.
“Pets, especially dogs, can be put in a crate or in another room to keep them out of the dining room,” she said. “A special treat or toy can be given to the pet at dining time or at parties.”
Pets should not share holiday meals with their owners, Bryan said. However, if pet owners feel they have to dine with their four-legged family members, small portions of baby carrots and low-sodium green beans are the best foods to give the animals.
Contact: Dr. Joey Burt, 662-325-1342; or Dr. Christine Bryan, 662-325-3432