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.

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.

What to Do About a Finicky Eater

Most dogs will happily vacuum up whatever is placed in front of them. But some canines go from voracious chow hounds to discriminating nibblers, while others seem to be persnickety about their food all the time. Your four-legged friend wasn't born picky, but may be suffering from a canine eating disorder. While the inborn temperament of a dog can vary -- just like its owner's can -- food finickiness in canines is often a sign of illness or an unintentional feeding-related goof. Here's advice on how to prevent appetite problems from arising, and what to do if your dog seems bored with its dinner. 

Creatures of Habit
"If you start off feeding a dog dry food, it will eat it. If you switch to wet food, the dog will prefer that," says Trisha Joyce, DVM, a veterinarian at New York City Veterinary Specialists. "Going back to dry food can then be difficult. The pet may protest, or go on a hunger strike."

If you've been feeding wet food and need to switch to dry, begin by combining the two foods, with one-quarter dry and three-quarters wet. The second day, go to half and half, and so on. You can also add a bit of hot water to dry food to make it more aromatic. Or buy a gravy supplement to make it more palatable.

The Dangers of People Food
"In my experience small dogs tend to be more finicky," Joyce says. "I think this is possibly because they're used to being catered to by their owners. They sit on their laps and eat chicken, and quickly figure out that people food tastes better than dog food."

Unlike dog food, which is specially formulated to meet your pet's nutritional needs, human food alone usually does not provide your dog with its daily protein, vitamin, mineral and other nutritional requirements. And proportion control is a problem. Some dog owners serve too much food, and obesity can become a problem. "Some dogs have an 'off' switch, but most don't," says Joyce. "They'll pretty much eat as much as you give them." Her advice: no table scraps.

Even worse, a dog that has been fed a regular diet of people food may be in big trouble if it becomes sick and completely disinterested in food. "At the hospital," explains Joyce, "we can often tempt a dog that's lost its appetite with people food -- but only if the dog has not eaten that as a regular part of its diet. Otherwise it's not as appealing."

Keep on Schedule
If you feed your dog at the same time each day, it will tend to have the most dependable appetite. Dogs also eat better when kept away from treats, which don't offer much nutritionally, and can interfere with their appetite at meal times. And keep in mind that your dog is a social animal -- it may prefer to eat with the family, and can be fed at the same time as everyone else, if possible.

When to Worry
So, what is the most common cause for a normally ravenous dog to skip a meal? It's the doggie version of the stomach flu. "If your dog skips one or two meals, and has another symptom like diarrhea that comes on abruptly," Joyce says, "it's probably gastroenteritis, an upset stomach, from something it ate."

On the other hand, if a dog that normally has a healthy appetite stops eating for long periods, you should watch for other symptoms such as vomiting, excessive urination or lethargy. If these occur, take your dog to the vet. "Dogs can stop eating because of metabolic disorders -- like liver or kidney disease -- or as a result of something rare, like a brain tumor. But really, it's most likely they just have a tummy ache."

Does Your Dog Need Vitamins?

Providing your dog with vitamins, minerals and other nutritional components is important to your pet's health and well-being. The best way to do so is by feeding it a high-quality, complete and balanced diet. Often you may be tempted, for a number of reasons, to supplement your pet's diet with table scraps or other nutritional supplements.

It is actually better for your dog if you forego supplementing its food, however. Here's why:

Risks of Supplementing
It is important for concerned pet owners like you to realize that quality dog foods are carefully formulated to meet the caloric needs of your pet. In addition, quality dog food provides the essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals specific to the nutritional requirements of your dog. Quality foods are complete and balanced for a specific life stage or lifestyle. By adding table scraps or other supplements, the delicate nutrient balance can be disrupted.

The interaction between different minerals is very complex. Research has shown that not only are the individual levels of minerals in a diet important, but so is the proper balance. An excess of one mineral may affect the absorption of a second. This could lead to a deficiency in that second mineral.

One common supplement is feeding additional meat. However, because meat contains 20 to 40 times more phosphorus than calcium, adding meat to a balanced diet will upset the calcium to phosphorus (or Ca:P) ratio, which is important for proper bone development and maintenance. This may prompt your dog's body to absorb calcium from the bones in order to reach the right balance. Ca:P ratio should range between 1.1 and 1.4 parts of calcium for each 1 part of phosphorus.

Excess amounts of calcium have been associated with several bone diseases that affect growing puppies. If you own a large-breed puppy, for example, you may believe it requires extra calcium for proper development of bones. However, adding yogurt, cottage cheese, or calcium tablets to the pup's diet will only upset the body's delicate mineral balance. Remember that large-breed puppies will consume more food and receive the calcium their bodies need by eating the recommended portions. The best way to support a normal growth rate is to feed growing dogs adequate, but not excessive, amounts of food that are part of a balanced diet, using a portion-controlled regimen.

Complete and Balanced Food
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the pet food industry and has established certain nutritional requirements for dogs and cats. These requirements are published annually in the AAFCO Manual. Only pet foods that have met the strict testing criteria established by AAFCO can carry the "complete and balanced" statement on the label. Check to make sure your dog's food has it.

So, while supplementing begins with good intentions, it is often unnecessary and it can upset the delicately balanced nutritional requirements of your dog.