San Francisco Bay West Highland White Terrier Club


Holiday Safety
The holiday season is a wonderful and joyful time of year filled with family, friends, food, festivities and lots of fun.

With a little extra consideration and care, the holiday season can be enjoyable for you, your friends and family AND safe for your dog, too. 

Test your Pet IQ -- Spot the Holiday Hazards

  • Food

Without a doubt, food is the #1 holiday hazard for dogs.  Even though we enjoy cookies, chocolate and eggnog, none of these treats are healthy for your dog.  Rich, fatty foods can upset a dog's gastrointestinal tract and can cause pancreatitis resulting in pain, diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. This condition often requires hospitalization for treatment.

Never give a Westie turkey, chicken or rib bones as treats.  They can splinter and cause serious injury.  Kong toys and hardened sterilized bones are better alternatives.

And chocolate is not a treat for dogs.  Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine, that is a powerful stimulant toxic to pets.  In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be.  For example, unsweetened baking chocolate contains about 7 times more theobromine as milk chocolate.

Onions can be toxic to dogs causing anemia.  Coffee and tea can cause nervous system or urinary system damage as well as heart muscle stimulation.

Do not let your pet in the kitchen unsupervised when you are baking during the holidays.  According to Jill A. Richardson, DVM, of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), when bread dough is ingested, an animal's body heat causes the dough to rise in the stomach. As alcohol is produced during the rising process, the dough expands. Pets who have eaten bread dough may experience abdominal pain, bloat, vomiting, disorientation and depression. The pet may need to be treated for alcohol toxicosis and the dough may need to be surgically removed from the pet's stomach.

Clean up glasses after holiday parties.  Pets are often attracted by the sweet taste of drinks especially eggnog.  Alcohol even in small amounts can be toxic to dogs.

Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from pets as these could cause intestinal blockage.  We have also been told of dogs suffocating from food bags such as potato chip bags.

To be safe, put away all food and drinks immediately, remove all food containers and pet-proof your garbage.

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Turkey Bones Spell Trouble for Pets

  • Holiday Plants

Certain holiday plants, while pretty and festive, can be dangerous to your dog.  Holly berries and mistletoe can be dangerous to pets!  If ingested, any one of these plants can cause an upset stomach.  Additionally, holly can be potentially fatal to dogs and mistletoe can cause heart collapse.  Keep these plants out of reach of your pets or use artificial plants.

Poinsettias are considered to be low in toxicity, however, they could cause vomiting or nausea if ingested by your pet.

Christmas tree needles, either live or artificial, are toxic, sharp and indigestible causing stomach irritation.  Never leave your dog unattended in the room with the Christmas tree. Tree preservatives can be toxic and the water in the tree stand often harbors potentially harmful bacteria.

Common Poisonous Plants

In the event of an emergency, contact the National Animal Poison Control Center on the 24-hour Hotline: 1-888-426-4435

  • Decorations

Be aware that small Christmas tree ornaments can be swallowed.  Avoid using glass ornaments as they break easily and may injure your dog's feet and mouth.

Remove holiday lights from lower branches of your Christmas tree.  They may get very hot and burn your dog.  Watch out for electrical cords.  Chewing on electrical cords can cause serious problems ranging from burned mouths to electrocution.  Use Pet-Proof Extension cords or spray cords with Bitter Apple to prevent your dog from chewing.  Unplug decorative lights when you are not in the room to supervise your dog.

Refrain from using edible ornaments.  Your dog may think your candy canes and gingerbread men are tasty treats and may knock over the tree in an attempt to eat the goodies.  Make sure the Christmas tree is in a stable and secure stand

Tinsel, aluminum foil, angel hair, flocking, artificial snow, ribbons, yarn, paper, plastic packaging  and string as well as popcorn or cranberry garlands can cause intestinal obstruction.  This condition will often require surgery and may be fatal.

Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to pets if eaten.

Candles can cause burns and fires.  Candles should be placed on high shelves.  Never leave lighted candles unattended or within reach of your pet.

  • Gifts and Toys

Inspect holiday gifts for your dogs to make sure they are safe.  Items such as soft plastic or vinyl toys and small rawhide chew toys can be dangerous to your dog.  While rawhide chew toys may help remove plaque, small pieces of swallowed rawhide can cause a respiratory or intestinal obstruction. We do not recommend giving Westies rawhide chew toys, pig ears or hooves.  Kong toys and hardened sterilized bones are better alternatives.

Put away children's toys after they are opened.  Small toys or batteries for toys can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction.

Be very careful with gifts of perfume and after-shave lotion under the tree.  These products contain ethanol (alcohol) and perfume also contains essential oils which be very toxic to pets.

Choosing the Right Toys for Your Dog

  • Guests

Holiday parties are a wonderful way to spend time with friends and to relax and enjoy the season.  However, not every guest, especially very young children, may be familiar with dogs and their habits.  Guests may inadvertently step on your dog's tail and young children may unintentionally tease your dog as well.

If you have a party, you may want to consider confining your dog securely in one area of the house to prevent him from escaping out an open door and running away.  You could place your dog in a bedroom and post a sign on the door asking guests not to enter that room.  Sometimes boarding a pet is the safest alternative.

With all the festivities, the holiday season is a stressful time for dogs.  Try to keep a normal feeding and exercise schedule to reduce your dog's stress.  And don't forget to relax and spend some quality time with your dog.

For year round safety, please read Westie Safety Tips


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