With the holidays now upon us, it’s time to think about sharing the goodwill with friends and family — which includes, of course, our pets. This month we wanted to highlight tips to ensure any pet gifts or treats are safe, nutritious and enjoyable.

Pets During the Holidays
Toys are great ways for owners to interact with their pets, or to help pets pass the time while your away. However, great care should be exerted when selecting toys. As your pet’s teeth are sharp and they can bite with incredible power, they can easily lay waste to many holiday toys. So, we encourage you to look at the construction and components of each toy as if it will be systematically disassembled by your pet. Consider how long the seams will last, how quickly parts will be severed, and what will become of those parts. You should avoid toys with:

  • Glue-based construction — which are no match for a persistent pet with hours to dedicate.
  • Small parts that, once liberated from the toy, can become choking or digestive hazards if swallowed.
  • Internal squeakers or stuffing that can be distributed around the room, or swallowed.
  • Excessive dyes (they often smell or feel velvety to the touch) that may become an irritant, or worse, after constant licking.

Importantly, consider the age and size of the pet. They select a toy that will not be intimidating or overly large (for younger or small pets) or too small and ignored (for larger pets).

By their nature, inexpensive toys can contain lower quality fabrics, materials, glues, and plastics that may harm your pet. As with most purchases, you truly get what you pay for. And a $2.99 toy may look cute in the store or online, but it may result in an unnecessary emergency or health complication. To the extent possible, you should look for higher quality toys made in the United States.

Pets Playing with Toys
We encourage those giving pet toys to seek simple, less complicated toys that can build the bond between pets and their owners. Frisbees, balls and tug-of-war ropes make great gifts and they help mentally and physically engage pets. A quality toy will last for years and more easily endure the chewing that a persistent pet can dispense.

If selecting pet toys isn’t your thing, nothing makes a pet happier than treats. But just like selecting toys, care should be exerted when selecting treats as they will be ingested by a pet. We suggest pet treats that are low in calories and are shelf-stable so they can be dispensed during the holiday and well into the new year. We suggest you should avoid treats that are:

  • Not specifically designed for pets — leave the cookies for humans.
  • Contain high levels of grain, fillers or fat.
  • Composed of rawhide or similar material that may present a choking hazard.
  • Contain chocolate, grapes/raisins or any artificial sweeteners.
  • Purchased in dollar stores — whereby treats may often be expired.

We also suggest taking a few seconds to read the packaging to understand where the product was: 1) manufactured, and 2) packaged. Often treats communicate “in the USA” suggesting they are produced in the United States — but many are simply packaged here. To the extent possible, we encourage treat-givers to purchase items manufactured and packaged in the United States. No one wants to learn that their well-intentioned gift-giving resulted in any harm or a trip to the emergency room.

Pets Receiving Treats
Recall, treats are rewards; they are not meant and should not be the mainstay of your pet’s diet. Ideally treats should not represent more than 20% of a pet’s daily caloric intake — even during the holidays.

Best Gift
Quite possibly the best gift that can be bestowed to any pet involves your time. Playing together, exploring a new park or simply spending quality time can be the best holiday gift a pet can receive. But combine your time with a quality new toy or a few nutritious treats and you’ll have a great holiday with your pet — one neither of you will likely forget.

Holiday Greetings
The entire staff of Kirkwood Animal Hospital wishes you and all of your pets a wonderful holiday season. We look forward to seeing everyone in 2020.

Veterinarians at Kirkwood Animal Hospital