Holiday Hazards

The holidays are a chaotic time for both you and your Shih Tzu. If you get overly stressed, he is likely to do the same. This means that, no matter how busy you are, you need to give your pet a lot of exercise and attention and plenty of acceptable toys. This will avoid the boredom and inactivity that might drive him to demolish the holiday decorations.

Monitor your Shih Tzu’s eating habits even more carefully than usual, and be sure that guests don’t try to give him table scraps, turkey bones, or other “treats.” Some of the accoutrements of the holidays—including poinsettias, holly and mistletoe berries, chocolate, amaryllis bulbs, and walnuts—can be deadly to your pet, so keep them out of reach.

Young children who may not be used to dogs or become very excited by all of the holiday happenings need to be reminded that your pet often needs some “quiet time.” If he is trying to avoid them, they should honor his wishes. If he is also excited, perhaps everyone needs to calm down for a bit. If he is underfoot, they need to be careful not to trip over him.

The tree itself—and the packages under it—are unfamiliar, and therefore very attractive. You will need to keep a close eye on your pet to be sure he doesn’t eat tinsel, wired ribbon, sharp tree needles, or other indigestible materials…or even knock down the tree or ingest the “goodies” in the packages he might unwrap. It goes without saying that packages with attractive odors should be placed out of reach altogether.

It’s best to use only unbreakable ornaments on the lower part of the tree that’s within doggy reach. Just in case, be sure that you always have a supply of cotton balls (those made with real cotton, not synthetics) and keep half and half in your refrigerator. If your Shih Tzu should eat a glass tree ornament or splintered poultry bones, feed it cotton balls soaked in half and half and broken into smaller bite-sized pieces—2 cotton balls for a dog under 10 pounds and 3-5 balls for a dog between 10 and 15 pounds. The cotton will wind itself around the tiny bits of glass so that the dog can pass them safely. Of course, you should monitor your dog’s stool and see the veterinarian promptly if you see fresh blood or tarry stools, but this folk remedy may help you avoid a lethal tragedy when your veterinarian may be operating on a reduced holiday schedule.

With proper precautions, the holidays can be a happy, healthy, and worry-free time for your entire family--including your furry companion.