RudyBearThe holidays are usually a wonderful and exciting time for family and friends but for family pets it can be scary, stressful and dangerous.  Lots of unusual activity, new sounds, scents, people, things around the home; all of this can be traumatic to your furry family member.  Dogs thrive on routine so here’s a few tips to make the holidays as enjoyable for your dog as they are for the rest of your family (and maybe better).

1. Walk the dog
You both will benefit from the exercise and bonding. If your home is a beehive of activity and strangers, exercise is a good way to burn off the excess energy and stress your dog may be experiencing.

Only walk in the daylight, when it’s not snowing or sleeting, and when you can see the sidewalk to avoid icy patches. A warm coat and boots are desirable for Toy breeds and a necessity for older small dogs. Shorten the length of time depending on how cold it is. A 5-minute walk s fine for a small dog. If the temperature is below freezing, find an indoor activity instead. Don’t overdo it.

2. Beware the salt
Not just on your table but on your sidewalks and streets. If you don’t use doggy boots, be sure to wash your dog’s paws when before you bring him back in the house, lime rock salt and calcium chloride salt can irritate the foot pads and cause vomiting and diarrhea when licked and many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Dip his paws in a bowl of warm water or use a washcloth to wipe them ff. This also will melt any snow or ice he has trapped in his paws. Be sure to dry thoroughly.

3. Protect your Christmas tree and its decorations from your dog and visa versa
Dogs love to chew strings, like electrical cords for lights. They also love to open gift-wrapped packages at least as much as we do. Don’t leave your dog (or visitor’s dogs) unsupervised near your tree.

4. Sweep up fallen debris
Evergreen and Pine needles can get caught in a dog’s paws. Needles, tinsel, ribbon and wrapping can cause choking.

5. Make sure Santa, not your dog, gets the Santa treats
If you have small children who leave milk and cookies for Santa, make sure you don’t leave your dog alone in the room with them. Not only will your children be disappointed but sugar, chocolate and milk are not good for dogs.

6. Keep a lid on trash bins
What dog could resist the smells coming a full-to-brim trash bin? Don’t let your dog help himself to bones, fats and other foods that may be bad for him. If you use plastic bags, use a plastic tie to keep them closed.

7. Keep plants off limits
It’s not a good idea to leave holly, mistletoe, lilies and yew plants at floor level. These can look like after-dinner desert to your dog but many plants can cause stomach distress and even serious injury. Either keep plants at a level your dog can’t reach or supervise your dog every time he is in the same room with the plants.

8. Use familiar bedding
If you travel with your dog, take along his bed, blanket and/or mattress. That will help him feel secure and ask any of your guests who are bringing their pets, to bring their bedding as well.

9. Examine your dog’s toys
Use December to examine his old toys for wear and tear. Discard toys that have been chewed and ripped and have parts could come off and get caught in your dog’s throat or stomach. It’s a good idea to take a familiar toy with your dog if you travel over the holidays but make sure it is a safe, clean toy for him.

10. Find a quiet place
Have a safe room for your dog. Many, many dogs, especially as they age do not like to be in the center of a commotion all day long. Have a place where your dog can be alone. Even if you travel with your dog, find an area where you can put his blanket or mattress out of harm’s way. That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to a create or carrier that your dog is familiar with, when you travel.

11. Watch those calories
It’s understandable that you want to fix a special Christmas meal for your canine best friend, but don’t lose sight of the calorie count for the special food or treats. Also, don’t let well-meaning family or friends give your dog human food. The salt, fat and spices could upset your dog’s digestion.

12. Share your dog’s good fortunate with others
If your dog gets toys or treats he doesn’t want or can’t use, consider donating them to your local dog shelter or a rescue group rather than returning them. If you had to travel without your dog and miss your canine companionship, see if a local shelter could use your help walking or playing with some dogs.

With these few tips, your canine visitors should be just as welcome and just as happy as your other family and friends.

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