It’s that time of year again – too much chocolate, too much turkey, too much…well you get the idea!  And of course it’s colder outside.  It’s certainly a great time of year to get together with family and friends, and enjoy fun times with our pets.  After all, most of us have more time off from work over the holidays, and no doubt we’ll want to spend some extra time with our four-legged family as well.   But what potential hazards do we need to be aware of, so they have a safe and healthy holiday season, and an enjoyable winter?  Here are a few reminders and suggestions.

Decorations, they look great but…
Many of us like to decorate our homes for the holidays, creating a festive atmosphere and helping us get into the ‘spirit’ of the season.   Caution is advised, though, when there are tiny feet about.  If you put up a Christmas tree, it’s best not to place ornaments or other tree dressings lower than the height your dog could reach.   This is especially important if you have a new Frenchie in your home, be it a puppy or an adult that’s new to your family, or if you know from experience [remember last year?] that your dog may get into some mischief with that tree.  Not only are there small items that could be chewed and/or swallowed, but the tree itself could come tumbling down if they were to try to reach high in the branches  or even climb up.   Keep these precautions in mind when placing other decorations around the home – out of reach is always best.

So many yummy treats!
At this time of year we humans tend to over indulge in some of the foods associated with the season (turkey, baked treats, chocolate…my mouth is watering!), but we want to ensure our pets don’t ‘accidently’ indulge as well.   As you likely already know, chocolate can be quite toxic to dogs, so should never be given.   The same advice would apply to other treats we enjoy more often at this time of year.  Although it’s tempting to want to share candies, ice cream, and baked goods such as cookies, tarts, cakes, and pies, these shouldn’t be offered to our pets, even in small quantities.  The results are often digestive upset (ranging from abdominal pain and vomiting to severe bloody diarrhea and pancreatitis), weight gain, and possibly allergic reactions.   While turkey and other lean meats are a good source of protein and considered delicious by 4 out of 5 French Bulldogs (maybe 5 out of 5?), they can also cause problems if you’re not careful.  Moderation is the key.  Keep in mind that any new food or food that your dog is not used to can cause problems, and that your Frenchie likely weighs only 10-20% of what you weight, give or take.  A 5 ounces of turkey for your dog would be like 2-3 pounds for us – not a good idea!  So any turkey or other meat offered should be in very small quantities, and your dog should be closely monitored for any symptoms of indigestion such as vomiting or diarrhea.   It’s probably best to stick to your dog’s usually treats – you’ll save them some potential discomfort, and there’s enough going on anyway without an unplanned trip to your vet over the holidays!

Cold, ice, salt…oh my!
What about outdoor hazards over the holidays and for the rest of the winter?  While we still want to ensure our dogs keep active during the winter months, we need to protect them from the ill effects of cold, ice, snow, and salt.   When walking your Frenchie, a warm doggie coat is a good idea when the temperature dips below freezing (0oC).  Booties will protect their paws from frostbite and salt damage and are a great idea if your dog will wear them.   If your dog doesn’t wear booties, be sure to wipe and dry their paws after a walk to remove snow and ice that may have built up.  An alternative to booties is to use a product called Invisible Boot (available from your veterinarian), a beeswax and lanolin based ointment that coats and protects pads from salt.  Your dog’s paws may also have to be rinsed with lukewarm water if salt is used on walkways where you walk your dog.  This will prevent the salt from irritating their delicate feet.   When it’s really cold, your usual walk may have to be cut short.  Think 10-15 minutes instead of 30-45 minutes if it’s bitterly cold (less than -10oC) or very windy.   If you’re uncomfortable out there, so are they.    If you do have to curtail your dog’s exercise regime in the winter, remember to reduce their food intake accordingly to prevent the dreaded ‘winter weight gain’ that may occur.

So we can see there are some potential hazards that our pets may encounter over the holidays and during the winter months.  But if we’re careful and keep these points in mind, we can all enjoy these times without any serious issues.  Have a great holiday and have fun this winter with your Frenchie – keep active, enjoy the snow, and above all keep warm!

Dr. Chris Murfin,
Kingsdale Animal Hospital, Kitchener, ON
Kingsdale Animal Hospital