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Keep Your Big Dog Safe During the Holidays

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Big dog eyes Thanksgiving turkey.

The holidays are approaching and with them comes the problem of keeping our big dogs away from foods, decorations and other seasonal hazards that could hurt them. With large animals, that’s not an easy task. Larger dogs can access cabinets and closets and countertops that we think are off-limits to them. That ability gets them into trouble at times.

First up, Thanksgiving means a plethora of rich smells and people food that make dogs drool.  But the very foods that smell so good and entice your pet could make him very ill!  Cases of pancreatitis over Thanksgiving increase in many veterinary practices.

Then comes Christmas when we worry about Fido chewing on and eating ribbons and bows or finding containers of candy lying in reach. 

Owners of large dogs understand the risks and concerns in keeping their pets safe from all these temptations, but many people have no idea of the challenges that big puppies present.  Jim and I owned several Great Danes over the years, and we could truly write a book about the ups and down of raising such large dogs, especially over the holidays.

Thanksgiving Surprises with a Big Dog

One Thanksgiving Coby, our Blue Dane, raided the kitchen trash can while we all ate dinner.  I have no idea how many turkey scraps and drippings he found but find them, he did, along with a couple of plastic trash bags.

I cannot adequately describe the aftermath but suffice to say, when a giant dog “passes” plastic bags, help is often required.  Imagine when I looked out the dining room windows to see Coby pulling away from my husband who stood with his hands wrapped in clean plastic bags, pulling the undigested bags from Coby’s rear end.

Whatever the size of your dog, avoid this situation and hide the trash from your dog when it’s full of Thanksgiving scraps.

One Thanksgiving Coby, our Blue Dane, raided the kitchen trash can while we all ate dinner.  I have no idea how many turkey scraps and drippings he found but find them, he did, along with a couple of plastic trash bags.

I cannot adequately describe the aftermath but suffice to say, when a giant dog “passes” plastic bags, help is required.  Imagine when I looked out the dining room windows to see Coby pulling away from my husband who stood with his hands wrapped in clean plastic bags, pulling the recently digested bags from Coby’s rear end.

Whatever the size of your dog, avoid this situation and hide the trash from your dog when it’s full of Thanksgiving scraps.

Keep Your Big Dog Safe During Christmas

Ginny was a Harlequin Dane, extremely large for a female and very intelligent.  As a longtime dog owner, I knew to keep certain foods away from all canines and chocolate topped that list.

When I shopped for Christmas gifts, I hid the bags on the floor of my closet beneath my hanging clothes.  The double doors to the closet pulled open and the set handle did not turn.

One day while I was away, Ginny decided to hunt for treasures in my closet.  I didn’t know she understood how to pull the doors open but she did.  Cue my OCD big dog!

Ginny found a shopping bag and used the handles to pull it out of the closet to the bedroom.  Too bad it was in the days before digital cameras, because only photos could have done this story justice.

Ginny pulled each item from the bag and laid each on the floor.  And then she found her treasure.

My dog found a Jack Daniels Tipsy Fudge Cake that I had purchased to send to friends in New Zealand.  She removed the clear plastic covering the box.  Then she gently opened the cardboard box without creating much damage.  She placed the box beside the plastic.

Once the box was removed, Ginny faced a rectangular, metal container.  I don’t know how she did it, but she removed the top from the metal container.  From there, Ginny pulled the cellophane-wrapped fudge cake from the container and gently removed the plastic wrapped around it.  I found this piece of plastic undamaged except for edges pulled apart.

When I returned home, Ginny was hiding in my daughter’s room between her twin beds.  That was my first clue that she had been a bad dog.

My first reaction was shock. And then I began to assess the layout on the floor.  This huge, OCD dog had meticulously laid out each piece of wrapping in the order she removed it.  Of course, the cake was long-gone!

We Dodged a Bullet!

Ginny’s ability to find and remove the cake the way she did was unusual and just shows what a smart dog will do to obtain a treasure she wants.  She suffered no effects from eating that Tipsy Fudge Cake and we all dodged a nasty bullet.  A small dog could have died from that chocolate, not to mention the booze it contained.

Other Holiday Hazards for Big Dogs

Some dogs enjoy snooping in the containers of gift wrap supplies, but keep those out of the animal’s reach.  While a spool of ribbon seems harmless, dogs chew on the ribbons but don’t necessarily bite them into small pieces.  A swallowed, long piece of ribbon could easily become wrapped around the intestines, creating a medical emergency.  At the very least, you may see that same ribbon dangling from the dog’s back side a few days later.

Watch Out for Fragile Ornaments

The bright lights and glitter of the Christmas tree attract dogs as well as people.  A bored pup may find a glass ornament makes a perfect chew toy.  But if said glass ornament breaks – and it certainly will if a big dog bites into it – shards of glass may become embedded in the animal’s mouth and create pain and a veterinary emergency.

While we are on the subject of tree decorations, skip the tinsel this year.  Your dog could eat it just as he would ribbons, and trouble could arise.

ASPCA Recommends Caution with Holiday Plants

Beginning with live Christmas trees, you don’t want your dog to access the water in the base tree stand.  This water may contain chemicals or fertilizer remnants that could harm your dog.  Both holly and mistletoe could cause gastric issues in your pet.  Don’t allow them access to these plants.

This site lists several other plants commonly found in homes at holiday time that could harm your pets.  

Chocolate & Other Hidden Dangers

Chocolate isn’t the only sweet to keep away from your pet.  Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many candies, chewing gum, and even toothpaste, could also make your dog ill.  Xylitol has been known to kill small pets.

Raw Bread Dough

With all the cooking going on during the holidays, who would have guessed that unbaked bread dough left out on a counter to rise would present a hazard to dogs.  Its smells wonderful but when ingested, the years would continue to rise in the animal’s digestive tract.  It could block or rupture organs and cause seizures and respiratory failure.

I saved both Ginny, and the loaf of raisin bread that was rising in a bowl on the kitchen counter. I walked into the room to find my big dog with both paws on the counter and her long nose pushing at the bowl of bread dough. That wake-up call got my attention!

Look At Your Holiday Home from Your Big Dog’s Eyes

As you make plans for the big days, decide how to protect food from your canine. Be sure all plants are out of his reach or you are certain they aren’t poisonous to dogs. Never think your dog – no matter how well-trained – won’t get into food that catches his eye. Plus, the excitement of visitors can make even the best-behaved pet forget his manners.

Before you invite the friends and family over this holiday season, go through your home and make sure you have done everything possible to remove hazards and protect your big dogs from any and all holiday dangers.

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