What not to do to pets during the festive season

We consider this message so important that we will repeat the advice we gave in the Pet Corner during the season last year.

We dealt a bit with this last week. We had mentioned that humans seem to have this fixation with over stuffing themselves during festive seasons.

Actually, there are many who see the festivities associated with the pre, peri and post-Christmas periods as bacchanalian rites and a heathen splurge that have nothing to do with the birth of Christ; I am not going to get into that theological debate, but I am convinced that many of us believe that the festive season must extend to animals also. So we feel that our pets must gorge themselves full with all the junk food (or residues therefrom).

Well, that is wrong. Dogs and cats couldn’t care less if there is no boxing on Boxing Day and no garlic pork/beef on Christmas Day. They would be just as happy, if they received their usual bland fare.

I’ll share with you something of interest that I was taught at a Refresher Course/Further Education Series in which I participated some time ago. The lecturers from the largest pet food manufacturers in the world and who worked at the foremost companion animal nutrition research institute on the planet, advised us that over fifty per cent (50%) of all ailments among pets stem from incorrect nutrition. Well, that figure must be eighty per cent (80%) around the Christmas period. The problem is that the vet has to prise himself/herself from a favourite chair/recliner to look after a pet which has just developed a (to the owner) “life threathening” ailment, which is, in truth, just a reaction (vomiting?) to a piece of chocolate; or plain bellyache from over-engorgement.

However, as we had mentioned previously, many humans seem to have this fixation with overstuffing themselves during the festive seasons. Consequently, they feel the pets must also share in the food bonanza.

Of course, since no veterinarian (well, with some few expectations) can tell the flustered client to go to hell on Christmas Day, he/she has to deal with the product of the owner’s careless feeding habits.

Still waiting at the GSPCA: Will some kind person adopt this cute (neutered) male dog and give him a good home in time for the New Year?

Anyway, let me use the Sunday Stabroek columns to tell all my old, new and potential clients that (i) I need rest and will be using the holidays to catch up on some needed sleep, (ii) I am getting more crotchety as the Christmases go by (this will be my 41st Christmas as a vet), so I am quite prepared to growl at anybody who brings a dog to me late today or on Old Year’s night – unless it is genuine emergency.

I should have entitled this article ‘What not to do to vets during Christmas.’

2. Scaring pets with
explosives

I know that it won’t be Christmas, if we don’t throw squibs at each other to see the scared reaction!

When I was young – in Jurassic times – we used a piece of carbon and an Ovaltine tin to produce a loud noise at Christmas. There were no squibs in those days, or if there were, we either had no money to buy them or, simply, we found more fun creating the bang with the spat-upon carbon.

Well, whether it is a firecracker or a squib or any noise-making explosive, it hurts animals. Dogs and cats have sensitive ears. The noise from the explosions disorients and traumatizes them. They don’t know what to do. They run indoors and try to hide in secluded places where they think there is security (bathrooms, under beds, in cupboards, etc). They jump off verandahs. They hurt themselves. They run away from home (you can see them wandering around our roads lost and with anxious/frantic looks). They are struck down by uncaring motorists.

The idea of tying firecrackers to dogs’ tails is an offence under the law. One can be charged and, if the magistrate sides with the GSPCA, the offender could be incarcerated. Terrorizing dogs and cats is not a joke. If a friend wants to commit such acts of barbarism, distance yourself from him or her. He/she must not be your friend. Such a person is certifiable and needs psychiatric help.

Simply put, exposing pets to squibs, firecrackers and to any type of explosive is one of the greatest cruelties one can administer to an animal.

3. Christmas baths

Dogs should not be bathed often. Cats (who groom themselves constantly) hardly ever need baths. I’ll deal with this theme in more detail later. It seems that pet owners, having cleaned up their houses totally for Christmas, feel compelled to remain in the cleaning mood. God, help ‘Rover.’ The cleaning frenzy is on. ‘Rover’ and ‘Felix’ get dunked in the big basin or under the standpipe. Of course, the drying might pose a problem – especially during the December rains. The animal may then be placed in a draught – and a ‘cold’ results. If you feel that something must be done to your animal’s coat during Christmas, just brush it. End of story.

Enough for today. Allow me to wish you and yours a wonderful and relaxing Christmas Day. That’s how I am going to enjoy mine – hopefully.

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