Our new dog, Nellie and some holiday pet health tips

Sleeping dog

Nearly three weeks ago we adopted a two-year-old beagle mix from a rescue shelter in Atlanta, the Urban Pet Project. This sweet little dog’s name is Nellie Bly. She’s smart, sweet, mellow, barely barks and is lighting fast at the dog park. We couldn’t have found a better dog suited for our family.

It’s been an interesting few weeks learning how to take care of a dog, from taking her to the vet to cleaning up a few accidents in the house. She’s the first dog I’ve ever had the privilege of owning and I hadn’t a clue about taking care of her.

Luckily I got great advice from my vet and his staff and my husband, Paul, had dogs when he was growing up and has a background in animal psychology and training.

Since I’m home with her all  day, she bonded to me instantly and follows me everywhere. It’s been a bit more work getting her to bond with the kids and Paul, but we’re working on it and trying to read her clues about being tired, overwhelmed, anxious (she hates when we leave) or needing to take a potty break.

I never thought I’d find a being that needed more attention from me than my kids, but luckily just hanging out on a pillow in my office is good enough for her.

adopting Nellie

Keeping your pet safe this holiday season

Going forward, I’ll be sharing dog product reviews, the occasional dog treat recipe, and pet health and safety tips like these from the Animal Behavior College, the largest animal career vocational school in North America.

The holiday season is a time for pet owners to be aware of holiday safety precautions for the animals they love.

Festive Food. While we enjoy delicious holiday foods, it's important to remember that what's good for us can possibly be harmful for our pets.

A piece of turkey or chicken can cause more harm than good. Poultry skin is greasy and fatty for dogs and might cause diarrhea or an upset stomach.

In some instances, particularly with older dogs, this can even cause or exacerbate Pancreatitis. Poultry bones can splinter and cause stomach and intestinal issues, which may even require surgery in some cases.

Raw or undercooked poultry can contain salmonella, which is as toxic for dogs as it is for you.

Plus, often one treat leads to a second and a fifth, and then before you know it your pet is on the road to obesity.

Did you know that chocolate can be dangerous for most animals and especially for dogs? It can cause seizures, convulsions or even death.

If you suspect your dog has eaten a sizeable amount of chocolate, immediately contact your veterinarian.

Don't know what to do with that fruit cake you received for Christmas? Don't give it to your pet!

Peaches and plums contain pits which if ingested can cause intestinal blockage. The pits also contain trace amounts of cyanide which needless to say is toxic to pets and to us.

Raisins can also cause kidney problems in dogs

Mushrooms, onions, chives, grapes, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are also on the forbidden list as is nutmeg which can actually be quite deadly.

Christmas specifics: Mistletoe and holly are poisonous to animals and make sure they are placed well out of reach. If ingested they can cause diarrhea and nausea.

Dogs and cats that chew inappropriate items need to be managed during the holidays.

These pets should be taught to like a crate or exercise pen where they can go for alone time and be safe when you can't watch them because you're busy with holiday guests, etc. Both should be large enough for the pet to stretch out and be comfortable and not used for punishment.

Proper play and chew toys as well as pet treats should be included in the crate and it's important to make this a positive experience for the pet.

Teaching your pets to focus on proper toys makes them far less likely to get into holiday mischief.

Live and artificial Christmas trees can also be a risk to pets and should not be eaten by dogs and cats. The water at the base of live trees is sometimes treated with a solution that keeps the tree alive longer and should not be ingested.

It's best to block the tree from the pet which especially with cats, is easier said than done.

Make sure ornaments are well secured directly to the tree and are hung on the top part of the tree and not low enough for a kitten or puppy to reach up and grab.

Avoid playing with or teasing the cat or dog with any ornaments including the tinsel type that cats often find irresistible.

Make sure any wiring is placed out of reach when possible and coated with pipe or at the very least tape. Extension cords used to light the tree or other objects should be the kind that shut off automatically if they are damaged.

All wires and cords can be sprayed with a bitter tasting solution like Bitter Apple. This and other brands can be purchased at your pet store or on-line.

Or you can rub the cords with vaseline and sprinkle on a little ground pepper if you don't have time to shop.

These simple, important tips can make the holidays a magical time for everyone, including your furry friends.

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