How to Have a Furry Happy Holiday by Carol Ross

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One late December morning several years ago, I walked into the living room to find my six-month old border collie lying on the sofa eating a glass Christmas bulb. Just crunching away like it was a handful of crackers and not a million shards of glass. I’m not sure if she removed it from the tree herself or if the cat did that part for her. Thankfully, the vet’s office was already open. I called them and rushed her into the office where the doctor recommended feeding her cotton balls. (Fluffed apart and mixed ground beef.) The hope was that it would bind to the glass and she would, um, expel it without rupturing anything inside. I was advised to watch for any blood in her stool. At the first sign of trouble, I was instructed to bring her back for surgery. It was a stress-filled couple of days, but thankfully this method worked!

Other pet owners aren’t always so lucky. My girlfriend’s puppy once bit through a cord of Christmas lights and received a violent shock. He survived without long-term damage, and has been known as “Sparky” ever since. But the fact is that holiday dangers abound for our pets. I’ve compiled a few to watch out for and some solutions to avoid the worst-case scenarios.

Electrical cords ~ Apply a light application of bitter apple spray. This works for anything you don’t want chewed up – table legs, shoes, Christmas ornaments *cough, cough.* I used it with all our dogs with great success. (I’ve also heard that cayenne pepper spray is good for hard-core chewers where bitter apple isn’t effective.)

Foods ~ Most people know that chocolate and coffee can be harmful to dogs. But don’t forget about the lesser known and even more toxic macadamia nuts. Grapes (and raisins), onions, and alcohol should also be avoided.

Tinsel and ribbon ~ These items are particularly attractive to cats. A friend of mine had personal experience with a cat who ate the curling ribbon on a gift, which caused a blockage in her intestines. After extensive surgery she pulled through. My girlfriend is still recovering from several thousand dollars in vet bills. Avoiding ribbons and bows, opting for a heavier cloth option, or applying a spray of bitter apple is a good idea.

Plants ~ The toxicity of poinsettias is often exaggerated, but can lead to stomach upset. Mistletoe and holly are both poisonous. They make some really nice imitation versions these days. And they can be used from one year to the next.

Liquid potpourri and candles ~ I think the danger of candles is obvious. There are plenty of singed cat whiskers to prove it. They can also be knocked over. Liquid potpourris that smell yummy when heated are highly toxic. Cats are curious and will drink these potions. Opt for pet-friendly greenery, a bowl of fresh oranges, or a basket dry mix instead.

I don’t know about you, but holiday baking and treats are one of my favorite things about the holidays. Most of our sweets aren’t good for dogs (or us, either?) But here’s a homemade treat you can share with your dog without feeling guilty. I’ve been making these for years for my dogs. If your dog is watching your weight (like my mini-doxie) the pumpkin is a good option!

In Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, Carol Ross contributed Gingerbread Girl. Her latest Harlequin Heartwarming release is Summer at the Shore.