Are Christmas Tree Needles Bad for Dogs?

Your Christmas Tree bring Joy During the Holidays, but it can also bring danger to your Dogs and other pets.  Apart from you, your dog may think that your Christmas tree is her friend during the holidays and cannot see the perils that tree can represent. Most dogs are instinctively drawn to its inviting smell, but beware; that natural curiosity can lead to the risk of serious injury or worse. Your dog's temperament and demeanor will play a role in how much mischief she might find herself in. Even the most well behaved canine will find it hard to resist the temptation of a Christmas tree and its trimmings. Short of 24/7 supervision, the next best line of defense to ensure her safety is to take precautions that could eliminate or at least minimize risk to your dog's health.

Christmas tree needles are not digestible, and if your dog tries to eat them, she'll likely get sick and vomit, and that is if you're lucky. They are mildly toxic, and if she does manage to ingest them, can cause damage to, obstruct or even puncture to her digestive tract. Oils from the fir tree can also irritate your dog’s mouth and stomach and cause her to vomit or drool excessively. Daily sweeping and vacuuming are the best ways to keep tree needles out of your dog's reach. Toddler gates are also a good way to keep your dog away.

Be extra careful with artificial trees as the small pieces are plastic and not organic. These small pieces of plastic can get lodged in her digestive tract and lead to illness, large veterinary bills and even death in extreme cases. You can spray an organic dog repellent on your tree to try and minimize the risks.

 

 

Is Christmas Tree Water Safe for Dogs?

Back in the old days, Christmas trees were usually sold with just a basic wooden base nailed to the bottom for balance. You’d go down to the hardware store, pay them $30 and haul the tree home and stick it in a corner. After a few days the needles would start to dry out and eventually shortly after Christmas Day you would put it out onto the sidewalk for removal or recycling.

But, as appetites for larger trees grew (and house and ceiling heights too!), people began spending more money and buying taller trees, which need a stronger base. They also buy them earlier and leave them up past New Years. Along with these new preferences came a need for a base that could hold water and give your Christmas tree a little more shelf life. So, those of us with curious pets inevitably discovered that dogs love drinking water straight from the Christmas Tree water holder. It tastes different and smells different, so it is bad for our canine friends? As Charla Dawson, owner of Dapper Dog and Classy Cat, points out, “The water itself is not poisonous, but if a fertilizer was added to the water, it may be poisonous. This fertilizer may cause the pet to suffer with diarrhea and vomiting.” (Tree preservatives may also be added to the water, helping to keep the tree fresh during transport.) Dawson therefore advises that you cover the base.

A quick and easy remedy is to make sure your dog’s water bowl is full to discourage exploration of the pine scented water under your tree. But if that won’t work, try covering the tree bowl with some well-secured foil or plastic wrap to prevent your water lapping loved one. Or, if you’re one to accessorize this kind of thing, you could take on a more decorative approach and make a Christmas themed cover for reuse next year. One impressive example is a pretty cover made out of burlap, as seen on the DIY Showoff blog. With some imagination, you can probably come up with other clever solutions.

Even if you just put plain water in the stand, I would advise covering the exposed base. The tree, which may have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals, will leach compounds into the water. It’s better to be ultra-safe than sorry when it comes to the holidays and your dog.

For more tips and ideas on keeping your cat safe this Holiday, click here.

What to do With an Aggressive Dog

We’ve all been there. You go to visit your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker, etc., and then before you even walk in the door you hear it. Barking. Growling. Lots of anxious movement.

Dealing with an anxious and aggressive dog is scary and, for the owners, can be a bit embarrassing. Barring the invention of a time machine that would allow you to go back in time to when your dog was 6-12 weeks old to focus on behavioral training (which is what Oscar E. Chavez, DVM, MBA, Member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, says he likes to first suggest), there are a few specific things you can do to try to help curb your pooch’s bad (and oftentimes dangerous) behavior.

“Aggressive dogs, if truly aggressive, usually require professional behavior modification, and the attention of a trainer or professional,” says Dr. Chavez. “This doesn’t mean you need to work with them at all times, but it does mean that they need to be a part of the behavior modification program.”

The key when dealing with aggressive dogs is to identify which type of aggression your dog is exhibiting, and then develop an appropriate strategy to reverse it. “This process can take days, weeks, months or even years,” says Dr. Chavez. “But if done right, it can be effective over 90 percent of the time. Truly ‘evil’ dogs are rare, and most of the time it’s poor socialization or training during puppyhood that leads to problems.”

When it comes to training, the key is to ignore bad behavior (provided it’s not immediately threatening), and reward good behavior with attention. “Negative attention is still attention, so yelling and shouting your dog’s name when it’s lunging and growling may only fuel the problem,” says Dr. Chavez.

One common technique that helps in the initial stages is what Dr. Chavez called the ‘invisible dog’ technique. “This is where you literally are instructed to ignore the dog completely, except for only feeding and potty walks for two weeks,” he said. “Even during these allowable interactions, you are instructed to avoid eye contact and be very cold to the dog.”

Dogs who are being given the ‘invisible dog’ technique typically go through a mourning phase, where they miss the attention and affection of their pet parent so much that they become open to training and to being very cooperative. After this period, the dog’s behavior is usually better modified. “Invisible dog is tough, because the last thing we want to do is ignore a pet we love,” says Dr. Chavez. “But it must be adhered to very consistently for it to work, and when it fails, it’s usually our fault for giving in.”

If your dog’s aggressive behavior worries you, Dr. Chavez suggests checking out The Animal Behavior Network as a great place to start for advice.

The Main Causes of Doggy Depression, and What to Do About It

While depression is not recognized as a medical condition in dogs, that doesn’t mean that your dog cannot have depressive symptoms. In fact, symptoms of dog depression may indicate a larger medical condition, and therefore should be monitored carefully.

The main things that usually alerts owners to their dog being unhappy are changes in behavior. Dr. Leslie Sinn, DVM, CPDT-KA and member of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, explains: “This could mean that the dog is not interacting the way she usually does, or not engaging the way she normally does. It might include not wanting to go for walks, or not eating meals.”

If these behaviors last more than a day or two, they can indicate a medical problem, and you should bring your dog to the veterinarian to run tests.

Many older dogs can exhibit symptoms that seem like depression but turn out to be something else. “A big concern is untreated pain, which can mirror depressive symptoms,” says Dr. Sinn.  “In our older dogs, for example, we worry a lot about untreated pain, such as arthritis. These symptoms could mirror ‘depressive’ symptoms, but actually point to a much greater and more dangerous condition.”

More information about depressive symptoms can be found here.

One symptom in particular that is often mistaken for a depressive symptom is an increase in lethargy. Before bringing your dog to the veterinarian, try to engage him in activities that he previously enjoyed, like fetch. Sometimes, one-on-one time with you might be all your pup needs to cheer up. If this doesn’t work, consult your vet to rule out medial problems.

It’s also important to monitor your dog’s appetite. “If the animal is feeling very poorly and refuses to eat for an extended period of time, that would put their decline ahead of schedule and is considered very harmful,” warns Dr. Sinn. “If a pet is refusing to eat for an extended period of time, this could be a serious problem.”

New stressors in a dog’s environment can bring on anxiety as well. “There are a number of things the owner can do to help lower stress, including keeping the dog away from crowded situations, decreasing chaos and unscheduled activities in the home, providing the pup with toys, walks and an increase in one-on-one interaction,” recommends Dr. Sinn. If these changes do not work on your dog, there are medications that your vet can give your dog to help with the anxiety.

The keys to stopping depressive symptoms in your dog, if there are no real medical problems, are very similar to what you would do for a person who is sad. Increasing positive interactions and decreasing chaos and stress will have your dog playing and running around in no time. 

How to tell if your dog is healthy

Since your dog hasn’t mastered speaking in words yet, you may wonder how you can tell if your dog is feeling okay. It turns out, many of the clues can come from just looking at your dog and reading his body language.

Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, shares some of the signs to be on the lookout for when it comes to your furry friend’s health:

  • Good appetite

  • High energy level

  • Healthy-appearing coat

  • Interactive behavior

  • No vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, increased thirst or unexplained weight loss

The above signs are just the beginning of being able to tell if your dog is healthy, though. Different parts of your dog’s body hold the key to determining if she is truly healthy.

The Mouth
If you notice that your dog has bad breath, it can be an indication of the need for a dental check up, or even something more. “ Some odors may be indicative of fairly serious chronic problems,” said Dr. Murray. “Liver or intestinal diseases may cause foul breath, whereas a sweet, fruity smells may be indicative of diabetes. If your dog’s breath smells like ammonia or urine, kidney disease is a possibility. Any time you notice your pet has bad breath accompanied by other signs of ill health, schedule a visit to the veterinarian.”

Another unlikely place to look to tell if your dog is healthy are his gums. “Once a week, with your dog facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth,” says Dr. Murray. “The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.”

 Not only can irregularities mean a problem with your dog’s mouth, but it can also be a sign of gastrointestinal issues.

The Eyes
Your dog’s eyes are also indicators of his overall health and wellbeing.  In fact, many vets recommend that you give your dog regular home eye exams to keep you aware of any potential health problems. Dr. Murray explains how easy it is to do this: “Face your dog in a brightly lit area, and look into his eyes. They should be clear and bright, and the area around the eyeball should be white. His pupils should be equal in size, and there shouldn’t be tearing, discharge or any crust in the corners of his eyes. With your thumb, gently roll down your dog’s lower eyelid and look at the lining. It should be pink, not red or white.”

If you do notice a problem, call your veterinarian. They can prescribe medicine to heal any eye disorders that can be impairing your pooch’s vision.

The Skin
Be mindful of your dog’s skin, as well. “Your dog’s skin is an indication of her overall health,” says Dr. Murray. “When a skin problem occurs, your dog may respond with excessive scratching, chewing and/or licking. A wide range of causes -- including external parasites, infections, allergies, metabolic problems and stress, or a combination of these -- may be affecting your dog’s skin.”

 Skin problems can also affect your dog’s fur, which can result in excessive shedding.

Here are some other ways to tell if your dog may be ill.

Other more common signs of an ill or injured dog include pale gums, rapid breathing, weak or rapid pulse, change in body temperature, and difficulty standing. And of course, if you’re ever really in doubt as to whether or not your pup is sick, making a trip to the vet can help, if only to alleviate your worry.