Last updated: December 12. 2013 12:53AM - 729 Views
By Dr. Bonnie Jones

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Stuart is a much loved, bow-tie-wearing Goldendoodle. At just 5 months of age, he was the recipient of most of Angela’s Secret Pal presents at our recent hospital Christmas party. The more “Stuart gifts” Angela unwrapped, the larger the grin on her face grew. Witnessing Angela’s joy inspired me to share some thoughts about every pet’s Christmas list.

Stuart’s gifts were both delightful and appropriate: a Christmas collar to match his favorite bow-tie, a seasonal bandanna, and a Santa/Mickey Mouse hat. I truly believe we love our pets because in many ways they are a reflection of us. As a health-conscious veterinary technician who graduated at the top of her class, Angela takes great pride in assuring that “Stu” always looks good. And, she is giving him one of the greatest gifts of all, obedience classes.

Besides the gifts of attire and training, toys and treats probably top every pet owner’s shopping list. As a veterinarian, unfortunately I am usually on the side of the “Don’ts” for pet Christmas presents. The gifts that make me cringe most are all items that go into pets’ mouths. For dogs, these include hard vinyl toys (Nylabones), rawhide chews, antlers, cow hooves, pig ears, and pressed bones. For cats, the “No-No” list includes any toy with small pieces or long strings.

The problem with the canine “Don’ts” are the fractured teeth associated with these chew toys that are just too hard. Veterinarians see many fractured teeth. The history for these pets usually includes that the dog is an aggressive chewer whose owner has great difficulty finding toys the dog cannot destroy and ingest.

My suggestion for these “extreme chewers” is Kong toys, with the black Kong (“Extreme Kong”) being the most durable. Kong toys are made of very tough rubber and are available in multiple shapes and sizes. If a pet swallows chunks from a Kong, the pieces are likely to be small and will pass through the pet’s digestive tract. By stuffing your dog’s Kong toy with low fat canned food or peanut butter mixed with treats then freezing it overnight, you can create an enjoyable, enduring, healthy, dental treat.

For fans of rawhide treats for pets, I have a precautionary word. I once had the misfortune of seeing a Pekingese that had died en-route to our hospital as his owner rushed him in to see us. The cause of his sudden death was a chunk of rawhide lodged in the back of his all too crowded throat. His owner was inconsolable. Inevitably, rawhide will get swallowed, intentionally or accidentally, then either obstruct or grind its way through your pet’s intestinal tract. Please don’t give your pet rawhide chews!

Also, changing your pet’s food or treats during the holidays may result in an “astronomical-gastronomical event” that will not “deck the halls” nicely, if you know what I mean. Instead, consider filling your pet’s stocking with tried and true treats. And, please do not share your holiday dinner with your four-legged friends!

For my feline patients, the “Don’ts” include Christmas toys with strings, such as fishing pole toys. These are great “chase toys” when humans are on the other end of the pole controlling the game, but NOT when they are left unattended. Cats commonly swallow linear items like thread, yarn, and string while in pursuit of whatever is attached to them. Eat, drink and be merry, but please don’t give your cat the gift of emergency intestinal surgery!

The best holiday cat toys may already be in your home and include gift bags and boxes to play in, and bows to bat around. Since many house kitties are often overindulged with too much food and not enough exercise, consider “puzzle balls (Egg-cersizer)” to make your cat “work” for its food and treats.

If your pet family is mixed like mine and includes both cats and dogs, be mindful, too, of small cat toys that dogs will seek, chew, then swallow. Nothing ruins the reason for the season like an expensive emergency foreign body retrieval surgery.

Like all of us, pets crave the gift of your time more than anything else. Instead of spending that embarrassing amount of your slush budget on toys and food for Fido and Fuzzy, choose to spend time interacting with your pet, or homeless pets if you are currently “pet-free.” Celebrate the human-animal bond during the holidays and all year round by walking, playing with, or training your pet. Then, ask yourself who really received the gift.

Happy Holidays from the two and four-legged residents of Welshire Farm!

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