Think twice about pets during the holidays - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Think twice about pets during the holidays

December 13, 2005

Albany-- They're a popular gift, a four-legged furry pet for the holidays. But veterinarians say you better think twice before you put a dog or cat under the Christmas tree.

At the Bush Animal Clinic, Zeek runs around outside. "He is just a terrier mix," says veterinary assistant Tonya Griffin. He's a mix of playful and mischief. "Very, 'say I'm a sweety'," says Griffin.

Dogs are a joy for many pet-lover and a popular gift for the holidays. "It is, It is. Especially families with children, always like to have the puppy popping out of the box," says Veterinarian Dr. Steve Whatley. But believe it or not, that holiday surprise may be unwelcome. They're cute at first sight but the day after Christmas, some people want them back in the box.

"Pets nowadays are living 14, 15, 16, 17-years-old so you should definitely know what you're doing," says Whatley. Many Christmas pets end up getting a bad wrap. "It's more of people getting pets and unwanted pets that end up at humane societies and they wind up not finding a home," says Whatley.

Dr. Whatley says people should make sure a furry friend is definitely on someone's wish list, and if it is, they should take some pet precautions. Be careful what you feed them around the holidays. "With dogs, it's sweets. Mainly the candies, the chocolates. Chocolate is toxic to pets," says Whatley.

With cats, they're curious by nature so they'll definitely get distracted by ornaments and lights on a tree. "The cats that get into the Christmas tree ornaments and icicles usually wind up on our surgery table," says Whatley. It's good to keep those decorations out of reach. Also, don't let pets drink the Christmas tree water. They may contain fertilizer or bacteria.

Put toys away after children open their gifts. The small pieces could cause choking. Don't let holiday guests feed your pet human food. Some foods are just too rich. Before any precautions are taken, the first precaution is whether to take a pet home to an unsuspecting recipient.

"You'd probably want to know the color of a person's car before you surprise them with a car," says Whatley. This will keep everyone and dogs like Zeek happy in the long run.

Many holiday plants can also lead to health problems for dogs and cats. You should keep poinsettias, holly and mistletoe out of reach.

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