Poinsettia is mildly toxic and irritating to pets.
Road salt can hurt your dog's paws. According to the American Dog Trainers Network, ice-melting chemicals on sidewalks and roads can cause burns on dogs' footpads and the spaces between their toes.
Whenever possible, avoid walking your dog through these sidewalk chemicals, and wash off his footpads when you return home. Consider some pet booties. If you are crafty, you can make your own. Protective balms and waxes such as Musher's Secret can be rubbed into and between your dog's footpads before walks to reduce pain and dry skin caused by road salt and chemicals.
Winter doldrums are upon us. It may be dark when you leave for work and when you return home. How are you going to exercise your dog when the yard or park is snow covered and cold?
Consider inside games like hide-and-seek, tug-of-war with some old cloth or a game of fetch.
Pet toys like KONGs™ make great gifts for dogs and cats alike. Stuff them with treats and pets will stay occupied for hours.
Or make time for an obedience class to improve communications and teach your four-legged friend who's boss. Experts say dogs see all people and dogs in a household as a pack, each with their own rank. For more information on being top dog, see Why You Need to Be "Top Dog".
Most pets are curious by nature and want to check out any additions to home for the holidays. Sniffing can lead to chewing or eating foreign objects. Keep electrical cords tucked away and other decorations or holiday plants out of reach. Watch out for dangling objects that can be pulled down.
Naturally curious puppies, kittens and other pets may want to sample plants, some of which are poisonous, especially since dosage is size-dependent. Poinsettia is mildly toxic/ irritating, and can cause nausea or vomiting; mistletoe and holly are moderately to severely toxic. Be aware that plant bulb kits featuring amaryllis, daffodil or others in the lily family can be toxic to pets causing gastrointestinal distress, cardiac arrhythmias, tremors and convulsions.
Don't forget about the holiday tree. Fir tree oils can irritate the mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling or vomiting. Tree needles are not easily digested and don't let your dog drink the tree water. To be safe, place plants out of reach and check the plants for any signs of chewing or missing leaves.
Say "thank you" to your favorite veterinary practice or neighbor who has helped care for your pets while you are on vacation. Here is a great idea that everyone on staff or in the family can enjoy. A subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine is just $8.97 a year including a Creature Comfort column in every issue.
For a contagiously cute gift idea, visit Giant Microbes where your pets or pet friends can bite back stuffed toys of rabies or play with mange.
To benefit animal rescue facilities and shelters, visit The Animal Rescue Site, which focuses the power of the Internet on a specific need: providing food for the thousands of animals rescued by shelters each year. Click on the purple paw button to provide support for shelter animals. When you shop at The Animal Rescue Site store, each item you buy also helps fund food for animals – at no extra cost to you.
Sometimes an afghan just won't cut it. Birds or reptiles may need their cages moved away from windows where they are subject to drafts. The cage should also be covered on three sides to prevent over-stimulation.
Though feathers provide tremendous insulating capacity, consider covering bird cages at night to protect against cool drafts and provide privacy. This tends to keep the bird quiet in the early morning too when it would otherwise become active and vocal.
Unlike mammals and birds, reptiles and amphibians do not produce their own body heat. In the wild, a reptile might sit in the sun, or on a sun-heated rock to warm up in the morning, and retreat to a cooler burrow in the afternoon.
In captivity, reptiles often need a supplemental heat source, a "hot spot" where they can raise their body temperature to nearly 100 degrees F, or higher for some tropical or desert species. This allows them to digest food and fend off disease. The animal should have the option to move well away from the heat source and cool off as it chooses.
When keeping reptiles, an important tool is two high-quality thermometers. Place one in the warmest basking spot in the enclosure; the second at the far end of the cage. When designing your reptile's enclosure, keep the concept of the thermal gradient in mind. Aim to have one side of the cage warm, and the other cooler. A variety of heating bulbs, pads, panels, and thermostatic rocks are available to keep your pets warm.
Natasha Kassulke is Creative Products Manager for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.