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Holiday Food Safety

The holiday’s are such a magical time. Family, warmth, presents, and of course; the food! Who doesn’t love all the special Christmas treats? One of the tricky parts about the holidays, is making sure our four legged friends don’t get into those treats, and knowing exactly what is harmful to them.

The big ticket items to make sure your dog doesn’t get ahold of are:

  • Cooked bones

  • Chocolate

  • Grapes/Raisins

  • Candy

  • Alcohol

  • Macadamia Nuts

The easiest way to make sure your pup doesn’t get ahold of anything potentially dangerous is to manage their environment. Keep food up on high counters, and pushed back to the edge. While you are eating, shut dogs out of the room or give them a special treat in their crate. However, the reality is that management isn’t always realistic. A great example of that happened in my house few christmas’ ago. My grandparents live in England and each year for Christmas they send me lots of chocolate. One year, they sent it to me wrapped, which is unusual. Not realizing what it was, I put the presents under our tree with everything else and happily left for work.

When I came home, there was wrapping paper everywhere. My dog Tyler had gone through and unwrapped all of the presents from my grandparents. It was a very impressive display of skill. She had started to unwrap a few other presents but left them as soon as she realized they weren’t food, and she had left the wrappings to all of the chocolate. As I started cleaning up the mess I realized what Tyler had eaten and it was a lot of chocolate! Fortunately we were able to get her to vomit, and after a gross night she was fine.

So what’s the answer here? The first important thing is to know what to do if your pet ingests something they shouldn’t. If you are traveling (or even if you aren’t) make sure you know where your closest emergency clinic is and have their contact information saved, and know how to get there. If something should happen, it pays to be prepared. You should also learn how to do a basic Heimlich maneuver on your pet. If you have to perform this on your pet, you should still take them to the vet if you dislodge the item.

If your pet ingests something that isn’t a choking hazard, what do we do? The first step is to get them to vomit up what they have ingested. Hydrogen Peroxide is the best way to induce vomiting. You should give 1 milliliter of 3% hydrogen peroxide per pound of dog weight. You should then call your vet to see if any additional steps need to be taken.

So now we know what to do if our dog gets something, but what about preventing them taking anything? This is again where management comes into play. If you will not be home, do your best to make sure that your pet does not have access to anything toxic. We can also practice our dogs impulse control skills around food using leave it. Leave it is by far one of my favorite skills to teach and I have so much fun with it. There are a lot of different aspects of leave it you can teach but in this context, there are two specific ones to focus on. An automatic leave it, and a drive-by leave it.

Automatic leave its are all about teaching the dog to leave food alone unless they hear a specific cue to take the food. Check out the video on how to teach an automatic leave it:

Drive-by leave its are similar but they focus on the dog being able to walk past a food item without bothering it. Check out the video on teaching a drive-by leave it:

If you practice your impulse control skills, and manage the environment as best you can, you should have a safe and happy holiday with your pups. If you feel like you need help brushing up on the skills, then give us a call! Above all, just remember to enjoy the holiday season with your pets and your family!

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