Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holiday excess

December 18, 2005


It is the season to beg for stuff. My technique isn't that good, though. I don't really believe that my whining will get me the new car I want, so I'm thinking of studying the tactics my pets use to get stuff. It seems to work unfailingly for them.

Dog Bailey has learned to back into my leg and stamp her feet until she scores a desired butt-rub. Dog Jack lets out ear-splitting baby barks for attention, and if those don't work, he buries his footlong nose into the sofa cushion and bites at the material with his sharp little front teeth.

Benton has figured out that those razor-sharp feline claws can effectively hook my shirt if I start to walk away before he's done being loved on. Brie, on the other hand, just pushes open the bathroom door and walks in purring since I am, at least temporarily, a captive audience, and she knows it.

Whatever method your pets have settled on to get their way, between now and New Year's you might want to steel yourself to be vigilant and to say "no" once in a while. These are party weeks, filled with a lot of strange and wonderful scents and textures from our pets' points of view, and we may be feeling festive or generous or just may not be paying attention. Our four-legged companions are just as capable as we are of using poor judgment and making themselves sick.

If you're sprucing up the house for company, please keep an eye on your cleaning agents. While ingesting them may in some cases cause our pets little more than stomach upsets-and probably, therefore, even more to clean up-many others can cause severe tongue, mouth and stomach burns, and can be fatal.

Decorating with plants may please Martha Stewart, but keep this checklist in mind as you fix up the living room: Fatal indoor and outdoor plants include azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, Easter lily (in cats only) or yew plants.

When it comes to food, it's terribly hard to turn your back on someone whose eyes melt your heart and who is salivating a regular river. A little sharing is OK, but use good judgment. Some treats are no-brainers: chocolate (most specifically semi-sweet, dark and baker's chocolate) can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and it often can be fatal to both cats and dogs.

But did you know that grapes and raisins can make them equally sick? According to the ASPCA's Poison Control Center, symptoms of these fruits can range from vomiting to kidney failure and even death. Other foods they tell us should be avoided include onions, onion powder, alcoholic beverages, yeast dough, coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate-covered espresso beans), tea (caffeine), salt, macadamia nuts, hops, tomato leaves and stems (green parts), rhubarb leaves, avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle and dairy goats), cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and moldy or spoiled foods.

If you have a lot of presents and decorations in your home - not just during the next few weeks, but at any time of the year - also be aware that for some reason beyond our understanding, our pets think ribbons and tinsel are good to eat. While this may make for colorful cleanups once the material has worked its way through your animals' digestive tracts, it is also entirely possible that stringy matter can get caught in their intestines and require immediate surgery to prevent a fatality. The same is true, of course, of small toy parts, coins and stuffed animal stuffings.

Other harmful odds and ends that can find their way into our companion animals' mouths include fabric softener sheets, potpourri oils, mothballs, batteries and anything else you can or can't imagine that they would find. I know one man whose dog found and ate so many sweat socks, he threatened to have a zipper put in the dog's underside to make removal easier.

I myself once had a cat who wouldn't leave photographic paper alone. He licked and bit at my pictures until they were ruined. It may not have made him sick, but neither did it do much for my fondest memories.

And one more warning for owners whose pets bed down in the garage: according to the ASPCA, "As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one tablespoon can be lethal to a 20-pound dog."

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Spot or Kitty sometimes can still manage to find that one unimaginable item and finish off the "big kill" by swallowing it. Keep your vet's phone number posted near the phone or on speed dial on your cell phone in case of such emergencies.

The winter months come with unique hazards to our animal companions. The Lawrence Humane Society wants to remind you that if you see a neighborhood or farm animal that is sick or struggling this winter, please call the shelter at 843-6835. We'll send someone out to assess the situation and take proper steps to help.

And happy new year from all your friends at the Lawrence Humane Society.

Sue Novak is president of the Lawrence Humane Society board.


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