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Holiday Pets


Mark Hale, DVM

1661 E. Mt. Gilead Road

Bolivar, Missouri  65613





            The Christmas holidays are a traditional time for receiving new puppies or kittens for presents. These adorable little creatures can be one of the greatest gifts that anyone could hope for. They can win your heart very quickly and can give years of companionship and enjoyment. However, if you are considering giving one to your family member or friend, please do some research and careful consideration about the choices and long term commitment (of time and money) necessary.  Puppies require a lot of extra time and patience to raise and train. For many families this is a small price to pay, but it can become overwhelming for others. If you do not have the available time or persistence, then an adult dog might make a better gift. Local shelters, newspaper ads, veterinarian offices, and friends can often help you locate a suitable pet you can adopt. Dog breeders also sometimes have retired animals that need a good home.  My parents received a retired breeding dog last year for Christmas.  "Gracie" has become a cherished part of our family.

            Whether you choose a registered puppy or an older shelter dog, there is still some homework that should be done to increase your chances of finding the perfect pet for your family. Breeds have certain characteristics that you should research. For instance, Labradors need lots of exercise and attention and although this is one of the most popular breeds in the nation, it would probably not be the best choice for a small apartment or for someone without a fenced yard. Another example would be the English Bulldog. While it might be perfect for some, it cannot tolerate being outdoors in the heat and tends to have many health problems that can be rather expensive and time consuming to manage. More information about particular breeds can be found in books at the library or pet stores, from friends or breeders, or your veterinarian. The American Kennel Club (AKC) website also has information about different breeds.

            Choosing a pet for someone else may not be the best idea. According to the Southwest Humane Society, almost one half of pets given as gifts are surrendered or returned to a shelter in the months following Christmas. A better idea may be a gift certificate to a shelter.

            Kittens or adult cats are sometimes a better choice for family pets.  Litterbox training can usually be done in a matter of a couple of days, whereas a new puppy may take several weeks to housebreak. Cats also require less space, usually cost less to care for, and do not have to be walked outside. If you do plan to get a cat, please keep it indoors all the time. When cats are let outside they are much more likely to be injured, lost, or exposed to disease. Some are too wild to ever be inside, but most cats adapt to being indoors and have no reason to be outside. Most cats available in this area are mixed breed cats with either long or short hair. Purebred cats are also available and information about the specific breeds is available in books or on the internet.




            At this time of year, it is common for young pets to become obstructed with tinsel, strings, or other ornaments. Be careful to keep these decorations where your young puppy or kitten cannot chew on these. Also be careful to keep electric cords (such as tree lights) where curious animals won't chew into them. These can cause severe burns in the mouth or electrocution. Every year at this time, I see several cases of enteritis or pancreatitis from pets getting too many leftovers (or getting in the trash can). Chocolate is usually abundant during the holidays and can be toxic to our pets. Different types of chocolate have differing levels of the toxin.  Don't take any chances—keep chocolate out of reach of your pets and avoid feeding any to your pet.

            One of the most severe and most common poisonings in the winter is antifreeze. Animals seem to love the sweet taste of it and it only takes a very small amount to be fatal. If you think your pet could have ingested any antifreeze seek medical assistance immediately. Once the toxin is metabolized, your pet may not survive even with intense medical treatment.

            In the winter, outdoor pets need extra attention. Provide plenty of food, good shelter from the cold and wind, and check their water frequently to make sure it is not frozen. Remember that warm engines attract outdoor pets.  So check to make sure all your pets are accounted for before starting your engine.

            If you have any questions about the care or health of your pet, please make an appointment with Dr. Hale.


Please don't let a tragedy ruin an otherwise joyous time of year.