Although savory holiday meals, sugary desserts, gift baskets, and flowers may be a treat for us, it could mean trouble for our pets. Below are some tips to keep our spring holidays pet-friendly.
Avoid Fatty and Sugary Foods
When our pets eat foods with high amounts of sugar or carbohydrates, it risks their dental health, especially if we're not brushing their teeth. (Avoid using human toothpaste on pets; consult your veterinarian for what products to use and how.)
Dogs are five times more likely to suffer from gum disease than humans. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats, with approximately 70% of cats and 80% of dogs showing signs of oral and dental disease by age three.
Overeating or consuming fatty and sugary foods or dairy products can also lead to stomach upset, diabetes, obesity, and contribute to joint pain in our pets. Even a 'one-time/special' treat could lead to diarrhea, vomiting, or toxic and allergic reactions, seizures and even death, such as with chocolate, coffee and xylitol (sugar substitute/sweetener).
When giving pets treats this spring, try to turn to non-toxic* fruits and vegetables, or dairy-free and natural treats from companies that list their ingredients. A tip is to look for minimal ingredients which also include words that you can understand or gain insight about via an online search.
Although fruits and vegetables contain sugar, they also contain nutrients, such as antioxidants, and are digested differently than the sugars found in desserts, which are also often nutritionally void. However, because fruits and veggies do contain sugar as well as other substances such as fiber, it is important to give those 'treats' to our pets in moderation (such as a small palmful), especially if they're not used to eating them. Also, be sure to introduce only one new food to a pet per week, so that if a reaction does occur it's easier to pinpoint the issue.
If you have party plans, kindly let your guests know not to feed your pets or which foods are safe to offer them.
*People Foods That Are Toxic For Pets, Here
Prevent Lost or Anxious Pets
Pets tend to get lost more during the holidays. Ensure your pet has up to date tags and to keep them safe indoors, under your supervision or within secure areas to prevent them from becoming lost.
Festivities can sometimes feel overwhelming, even for the most social pets. It helps to provide them with a quiet space they can retreat to if they become overwhelmed. Playing with pets or giving them exercise before festivities begin also helps reduce anxiety.
If you're attending events away from your pet, be sure to spend some extra time with them before you leave and that they'll be safe while you're gone.
Animals Given as Gifts Deserve Appropriate and Forever Homes
Animal companions deserve forever homes no matter the time of year that they join our families. It is important to remember baby animals grow and change as they age. Shelters often see an influx of animals following the spring from people who aren't prepared for the truth that all animals, including those given as 'spring gifts,' need long-term love and appropriate care. Please consider refraining from giving bunnies, chicks, or other live animals as gifts during the holidays, unless life-long, family plans have been put in place.
Please also consider adoption over purchasing and avoid pet stores, which are unfortunately linked to animal cruelty. And as always, thoroughly consider an animal's individual personality, and how they will fit into their future family's lifestyle and home environment.
Keep Pets Safe From Hazardous Plants, Basket Fillers and Toys
If receiving plants or flowers as gifts, please prevent pet exposure to those that are toxic.* Animals may also have allergic reactions to plants, just as people do. Noisy or open-mouth breathing while at rest, sneezing, wheezing, redness of the skin or ears, constant head shaking, itching and licking, or other unusual behaviors could be signs of an allergic reaction to plants or flowers.
Balloons, plastic grass, gift ribbon, plastic eggs, basket fillers, and small toys can be toxic, a choking hazard or dangerous for the digestive system; plastic or sharp items can tear the digestive tract, while grass and ribbon can become tangled in the intestines. Some pets can learn how to open plastic eggs with their noses or paws for a treat that's inside, which is super fun for them and safe under supervision, just to ensure they don't get cut from any rough edges or attempt to eat the egg itself.
*Toxic Plants for Dogs, Here
*Toxic Plants for Cats, Here
Artificial Coloring and Hair Dying Can Be Illegal and Dangerous
It is unlawful in New Hampshire to offer for sale, give as a prize, display, or use an artificially colored chick, duckling or rabbit as an advertisement in any public place (RSA 437:14). Other states throughout the nation have similar laws, such as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California, as well as in Florida where it is unlawful to color any animal under 12 weeks of age or a fowl or rabbit at any age, and South Carolina where coloring any animal is prohibited regardless of age, to name a few.
Such laws are implemented due to the high stress, harm and even deaths that artificial coloring can cause to animals. Chicks and ducklings are often injured or drowned during the dying process, and sometimes die from the chemicals in the coloring.
Even using what some companies advertise as 'non-toxic' or 'pet-safe' may be harmful. Small animals such as gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, etc., should not be bathed as they do not know how to swim, are very sensitive to cold and hot temperatures, and are highly vulnerable to illnesses, such as pneumonia.
Bathing is also extremely stressful for small animals, as well as cats and rabbits who groom themselves regularly and can also become sick from licking off the coloring. Rabbits also have sensitive respiratory systems and water in the ears and nose can lead to infections.
While some assert the use of 'non-toxic' and 'pet-safe' coloring, food coloring or Kool-Aid are perfectly fine for dying the hair of dogs, many persist that it's dangerous and cruel regardless of the product used.
Dogs who are stressed from bathing would not be good candidates for coloring. Human hair dyes or any dyes with chemicals such as (but not limited to), ammonia, peroxide, formaldehyde, DMDM Hydantoin, and p-phenylenediamine can cause severe side-effects, and also contribute to the development of chronic illnesses. And whether considered non-toxic or pet-specific or not, an allergic or harmful reaction can still occur; such as itching, burning, other skin irritations, an allergic or adverse reaction from the skin absorbing the product, or from the dog licking the coloring off their body.
Drastic and bold changes in a pet's appearance will also likely cause increased attention from people, which can be stressful for animals, especially those who suffer from social anxiety.
Overall, it is best to steer clear from artificially coloring pets. Animals are beautiful just as they are and manipulating them so that they look 'more appealing' or funny to some, is not worth risking their comfort or health. There are always other options for giving your pet a festive look, such as hats, bandanas or sweaters and shirts, as long as it does not cause them to overheat or become frustrated or anxious.
And a safe, healthy and pet-friendly holiday means a happy holiday for our families and ourselves.