We treat our pets as family and we want to share the holiday spirit with them. In our household, our pets have their own Christmas stockings, just like the rest of the family. On Christmas morning they share in the experience of opening gifts and seeing what Santa has left them. It is important that we understand that these presents are safe and healthy for our animals.
Toys should match the size and chewing level of the pet. Too large and they may be intimidated. Too small and they may injure themselves or even choke on the item. Hearty chewers should not be given toys that they can destroy in minutes. Hidden items such as squeakers can present problems if the toy is destroyed and the hidden part becomes obtainable. Rawhide bones are favorites of pets, but these can create safety hazards. Some rawhide is treated with bleach or even arsenic. Know the country of origin. Rawhide from the United States is the safest. But even untreated rawhide can have negative consequences.
Rawhide is difficult for a dog to digest. Swallowing a large piece can block the intestines and require surgery. The dog also can cut its mouth on the jagged edges of the rawhide. We recommend natural body parts of animals such as bully sticks or hard, splinter-proof bones. Elk or deer antlers and Yeti bones (a hard cheese treat made from Yak milk) are favorites.
When purchasing a toy, consider whether it is to be used as a tug toy, a retrieving toy, or just a toy that pets can use for their own entertainment. Rope toys make great tug or retrieving toys, but are not good toys for the dog just to chew on. The rope fiber can be ingested and cause stomach or intestinal problems. Plush toys are not manufactured to sustain the rigors of tugging. They are designed to be a friend for the pet when humans are not around. Puppies should be matched with toys as they grow. Start small and soft. Remember baby teeth can break easily. And because they are sharp, they can shred toys easily also.
If you are buying a present for a neighbor or a family member, it is always best to first ask what they think their pet would like. If you want it to be a surprise, then we recommend a gift certificate. Always better to be safe than possibly waste your money.
One last thought on the holidays: Keep your pets safe around the house. Plants such as poinsettias and holly berries are poisonous to pets. Make sure they are out of reach. Christmas tree ornaments can also be hazardous. Tinsel can be eaten and cause stomach problems. Power cords are attractive to puppies and kittens. They like to chew. Ornaments should not hang within reach of pets. Be careful with any water additives to the Christmas tree stand. Some of these can be toxic to pets.
And please, if you are looking to add a pet to the family for Christmas, give it a lot of thought. Animal shelters are often overrun with unwanted pets after the holidays. Don’t just give in to temptation without thinking it out. Pets depend on you to care for them. Don’t let them down.
Larry Jandrew has owned Pet Source since 1999. He sends best wishes for Happy (and Safe) Holidays from the entire staff at Pet Source.