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January 30, 2011

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Home » Feature » Animal Planet

It's the year of the rabbit -- but don't forget dogs

AS the Chinese Lunar New year approaches, the city is getting festive, people are decorating their homes, cooking and buying lots of delicious food.

While for us, this is a great holiday, it's definitely not a holiday on the dog calendar; for dogs, festivities can cause health problems, unless their owners are considerate.

There are several areas of concern: lights and decorations; fireworks and food.


Holiday lights, candles, ribbons and paper are commonly used in home decoration. They also attract dogs. Canines may step on exposed electrical wires and bite or even swallow light bulbs, ribbons and other things that may be toxic and certainly indigestible. Gift packages and their contents, if left within a dog's reach, can also be tempting and dangerous.

Dogs are curious, they sniff at everything and they can try to eat what they shouldn't. If your dog has swallowed something it shouldn't, call the vet and find out what to do.

Keep gifts and decorations out of the dog's reach. It's hard to discourage a dog from playing and mouthing things, so it's best not to open packages when you dog is around.


Dogs have keen hearing and are very sensitive to noise. While your family and neighbors are having fun with firecrackers and fireworks, your dog may be terrified of the bangs and fire. Panic and hiding are common. Puppies are especially scared since they have never experienced this chaos before.

Comfort and reassure your dog, so it feels safe. If it's small, cuddle it. Stay away from the main fireworks area. Try to find a corner where it will feel secure, find favorite blanket and doggie toy. A long night of noise can be very upsetting, so be prepared for comforting sessions. Dogs feel much more comfortable when surrounded by familiar people.

Cats are sensitive too. They usually run away and hide.


You are probably planning a feast, or several feasts for the holiday, however, some of your favorite foods are bad for dogs' digestive systems and some are downright dangerous. The same is true for cats.

Chocolate is a no-no. It can cause seizures and kill. The worst is dark baker's chocolate.

Cocoa beans naturally contain theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to dogs. Beans contain more theobromine than caffeine and dogs metabolize theobromine very slowly - it can stay in the system for as long as 20 hours and interfere with the central nervous system, heart and kidneys.

Theobromine is also addictive; dogs like chocolate and the darker the chocolate the more the theobromine it contains.

Keep all chocolate away from dogs.

It may seem common sense to give bones to a dog, but not chicken, duck or other fowl bones that can splinter and perforate the animals' organs. Also avoid pork and pork bones - they are usually too fatty for a dog's digestive system and lead to diarrhea. Excessive fat (and fried food) can damage the pancreas.

Avoid raisins, and grapes and onions (food containing onion powder). Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure; onions destroy red blood vessels and can cause anemia. This applies to cats.

Anything containing caffeine is bad, causing the same symptoms as chocolate.

Avoid walnuts, macadamia nuts and nutmeg - they can cause tremors, paralysis and death. Limit other nuts in general because of high phosphorous content. Same for cats. Only give your pet organic peanut butter.

Of course, there's a lot of food that's safe: lean beef and poultry, liver, salmon and so on.

Commercial dog food and dog treats are best.

So while you are banqueting and celebrating this holiday season, remember the many things you can do for your pet's safety, health and peace of mind.

Hopefully one day, the festival will be a holiday on your dog's calendar as well.


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