by Dr. Elizabeth Ellis
As the leaves turn golden and the air becomes crisp, the holiday planning begins. With that, comes thoughts of giving-giving to our community, family, friends, and of course, our pets. “What shall I get Duke or Daisy this year?” Well, I have a few suggestions.
More important than any material item is giving of yourself. Just as spending time with your family is immeasurable, spending quality time with your pets is important for their well-being. They want to have you pet, cuddle, and play with them more than anything. Show them your love by snuggling on the couch, going for a hike, or giving a full body brushing. With the business of the holidays, be sure to carve out time daily to spend with your pets as they crave this attention.
Next on their wish-list is exercise and mental stimulation. Even though it’s chilly outside, your pet still craves exercise and needs it in order to behave. If your pet lives indoors, be creative and play a miniature game of fetch or catch the laser beam. When you take your pet outdoors for some romping, ensure they are dressed appropriately and monitor feet and ear tips to prevent them from becoming overly chilled. It is also important to give your pet variety so instead of a walk in the same neighborhood, head to one of the many hiking trails nearby or schedule a play date with a dog that yours gets along well with.
Pique your pets’ interest in some new toys that engage them. Try hiding food or dog treats in Kongs or Busy Buddy Twist & Treat type toys. Put these in hiding places around the house or yard while you are gone or busy so that your pet can work for their meal. Alternatively, try the Kyjen style hide-a-toys in which your pet has to figure out how to remove items, for example taking squeaker filled bumble bees from a stuffed bee hive.
When pets reach a goal in this manner then receive a positive reinforcer (the food or toy), it reinforces the good behavior. In fact, the American Association of Feline Practitioners states that “Providing an enriched environment will prevent many potential behavior problems that can occur secondary to under-stimulation and stress.” Offer your cats new environmental enrichments such as scratching posts, climbing towers, cat-nip filled toys, and feather chasing toys. Teach your pet some new tricks or perhaps explore a new sport such as agility or fly ball.
What would the holidays be without delicious food? While you may want to include your pets in on the indulgences, practice restraint. Pets can easily develop stomach upset, inflammation of the pancreas, obstruction with foreign material, or even toxicity due to partaking. This can manifest as vomiting, diarrhea, intense belly pain, loss of appetite or kidney failure. Some of the dangerous foods pets are exposed to include chocolate, wine and other liquors, onions, raisins and grapes, bones from turkey, chicken, and other meats and items high in fat. If you want to give your pet an extra special food treat, get a dog or cat specific treat and limit the amount that you give them.
Finally, if you want to spoil your pet for the holidays, consider refreshing some of their basic supplies. Some new jewelry such as a new collar with updated tags is always a great gift. Consider a new soft bed with a washable cover or a plush dog coat for outdoor play time. As you discover different ways to pamper your pet during the holidays, you will receive perhaps one of the greatest gifts in return, the love and companionship of your furry friend.
Dr. Elizabeth Ellis DVM appears courtesy of Aspen Ridge Animal Hospital in Lakeside. For more information about this health topic or others, please call (928) 537-5000.