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Bark Bytes… Our Older Dogs and the Holidays

In planning for the holidays, it is important to keep your pets in mind.  The holidays can be chaotic—especially for dogs.  Holiday festivities can interrupt a dog’s routine and present a potentially unsafe situation.  The holidays start soon but November is also Senior Pet Month, so as we plan our festivities, let’s keep that in mind.  Our elderly dogs may not enjoy the extra hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Be mindful of keeping them comfortable when his routine is disrupted.

Anxiety and Stress When Company Comes

  • If your elderly dog gets cranky around visitors, simply take him to his special quiet place where he won’t be bothered and can feel secure.
  • Remind children to be respectful of your older dog. Always provide supervision when dogs and kids are together.
  • Most dogs get very excited when guests arrive. To help your dog be calmer, exercise him prior to the festivities. After 30 minutes of walking or playtime, your dog will more likely be relaxed or want to nap.
  • As a general rule, don’t allow the family dog to greet unfamiliar guests since unusual activities and commotion can cause him extra stress.
  • Give your dog a break from the hubbub by putting him in his crate or in a quiet room with his doggie bed. Allow him to rejoin the festivities after guests have arrived.
  • Pets stressed by unfamiliar events typically pant more, so keep your dog’s water bowl filled with fresh water.

Table Food

  • Many holiday foods can be harmful to canine friends, causing symptoms as mild as an upset stomach or as severe as vomiting and diarrhea. Avoid giving your dog fatty or spicy foods, bread dough, fresh herbs, alcohol beverages, caffeine and sweets of all kinds—especially those with chocolate or xylitol, an artificial sweetener.
  • Particularly dangerous are cooked poultry bones. Cooked bones easily splinter, and the bone shards can cause choking, get stuck in your dog’s gums or possibly damage his intestines. Instead, treat your dog to “dog bones” specifically designed for him to chew.  Ask your veterinarian for suggestions.
  • Discourage your dog from foraging in the garbage—secure lids on all trashcans.
  • It’s natural that you’d want to share holiday treats with your dog. While a little taste of turkey or sweet potatoes can make your dog happy, don’t overdo it—too much of a good thing can make him sick.

Those Beautiful Decorations and The Tree

  • Keep your pet away from holiday plants, many of which are poisonous, such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias. Anchor the Christmas tree to the ceiling or wall to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Snow globes can contain antifreeze, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Hang non-breakable ornaments near the bottom of the tree and avoid putting tinsel on your tree as tinsel can twist in your dog’s intestines and be deadly, if eaten.
  • Keep electrical wires and batteries out of your pet’s reach. Chewing or biting anything electrical can cause him shock or burns.
  • If you are lighting a Chanukah menorah or Kwanzaa kinara, don’t leave lighted candles unattended. A lit candle knocked over by a swinging tail can burn your pet or cause a fire.
  • Don’t let your dog drink the Christmas tree water. The water may contain preservative chemicals, which can trigger severe indigestion in dogs. Stagnant plain water can breed bacteria and cause nausea or diarrhea to your pet.
  • Regularly sweep up fallen pine needles, as they can puncture holes in a dog’s intestines if ingested.

Give The Dog A Gift?

  • Absolutely! They are family members.
  • Help your dog stay busy and out of the holiday trimmings by giving him fun, safe gifts.
  • There are a variety of virtually indestructible puzzle toys that reward your dog with treats, keep him well entertained and tire him mentally.

Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company.  For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit

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