Experts offer safety tips for pets


December 13, 2021 – While the upcoming influx of holiday parties, guests and fireworks celebrations should be a time for joy and laughter, they can be incredibly stressful for our pets. New scenes and scents, combined with schedule changes and the influx of strangers into the home, can cause anxiety or aggression resulting in dog bites if warning signs are not recognized.

According to the recent CDC study, approximately 1 in 73 Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and 800,000 of those 4.5 million bites require medical treatment. And, unfortunately, most of these serious incidents happen during the holidays, reports The Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America (BRCA), a network of specialized reconstructive plastic surgeons.

To ensure that your holiday season is cheerful and without snacks, follow these simple steps:

Preventive measures

To protect pets and guests, “You have to outdo your pet and think for your guests,” says Mark Brucker, DVM, owner Acute veterinary care of Martinez, GA. “Common sense must prevail.”

Formulate a plan for your pet long before your first holiday party or trip, as animals need time to adjust to new routines, locations, and strangers.

Do you have small children? Take the time to talk to them about your entertainment plan as well. While they may want your pet to participate in every activity, teach them your new safety precautions.

“Don’t anthropomorphize your pet and think,‘ He has to enjoy Christmas with me or he’ll be sad, ’” Brucker says.

Remind them, your pet will be happiest in a safe place, free of anxiety and loud noises. Hesitant spouse or partner? Let them know that you could lose your owner’s insurance if your dog bites someone at home!

Play and listen

Often the busiest time of the year, the holidays make it easier to ignore your dog’s regular schedule. Slowly make the necessary changes a few weeks before the holiday festivities. Make an effort to offer abundance training, time to play and rest to keep your dog relaxed and without anxiety.

Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, take the time for regular training by reminding them of the “sit,” “stay,” and “go to your place” commands to safely obey when strangers enter the home.

Practice tricks with them too. It can be a fun way to “break the ice” with strangers, offering opportunities for positive affirmation with treats for good behavior.

Put them away

Make sure your dog has a safe place to relax during holiday gatherings. Put them in a separate room out of sight and consider placing two or more children’s doors or doors between your pet and uninvited guests. A sign on the closed door will prevent both your guests and your pet from getting scared.

If your dog’s personality allows it, try settling in boarding or keeping pets for the night or staying on the weekends. Consider dating your chosen nanny or boarding your dog a few times before the holidays to make sure the experience is happy.

Time for toys

Toy puzzles, Goodie Bones, KONGs, i Buster Cubes are great opportunities to entertain your dog during the holiday festivities. For longevity, prepare and freeze more treats before the holiday bustle. Have the children lend a helping hand. If they know your pet is having fun in their crate, they are less likely to affect your safety precautions, reducing the risk of injury.

Inspiration for dog treats abounds on the line, so search Google quickly and get creative! Mixtures of yogurt and fruit like bananas or blueberries, sliced ​​baby carrots and good, old-fashioned peanut butter are sure to please you, while keeping the added sugar under control to avoid hyperactivity and calorie increases. Avoid yogurt or butter with xylitol, because this sugar substitute is safe for humans and is toxic to dogs.

Be their eyes and ears

Dogs show many symptoms of anxiety to create a distance between themselves and perceived danger before escalating into an attack. These signs, such as barking, panting, and walking, should not be punished or ignored.

“The reason why the dog continues to rise the scale of aggression to the bite is that the owner does not recognize the early stage of the scale of aggression – he does not understand body language,” he says. Melissa Hartley, a professional animal behavior consultant at Wagener, SC.

While punishment for a moment could stop unwanted noise, Hartley says it could lead to later, more serious aggression.

“When you punish the stairs on the scale of aggression, you no longer get those early warning signs, because the dog has been punished for them in the past, so it goes straight to the bite.”

If you cannot remove the dog before the arrival of guests, take it to a safe and quiet place at the first sign of aggression.

Talk to your doctor

If anxiety and aggressive episodes become frequent, talk to your veterinarian about treatment solutions. Just like humans, “Aggressive behavior and anxiety in animals are extremely complex,” says Brucker.

Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl and Zylkene have been shown to effectively calm dogs, while prescription drugs like Trazodone and Xanax (alprazolam) offer effective support for anxiety and depression. Dose your dog at least 1 hour before the doorbell starts ringing to ensure the medication has time to work.

If a bite occurs

Even with plenty of caution, accidents can still happen. If a dog bite occurs, stay calm.

Thoroughly clean the stab wound as soon as possible to kill harmful bacteria. Keep antiseptics like Betadine (povidone-iodine) on hand for unexpected accidents. With a mouth full of bacteria, dog bite wounds pose a high risk of infection if left untreated.

Seek medical attention immediately after a dog bite. To prevent wound infection or cellulite, BRCA suggest emergency care, providing doctors with enough time and opportunity to repair damaged nerves, muscles or tendons.

After successful wound healing, seek the help of a reliable dog behavior counselor. Look for professionals with numerous points for continuing education (especially on the topics of aggression in dogs) and membership in associations such as Professional Alliance for Pets and International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

While there are only 50 veterinary behaviorists in the United States, doctors who specialize in animal behavior and can prescribe drugs, there are many more animal behavior consultants, such as Melissa, who apply the same scientific methods in their practice without a medical degree. , working in tandem with veterinarians to recommend medications.

WebMD Health News


Mark Brucker, DVM, owner, Veterinary Clinic for Acute Care, Martinez, GA.

Melissa Hartley, owner, kennel Sindar, Wagener, SC.

Dog diary: “Dog bite statistics (how likely are you to be bitten?”

Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America: “Tips for Pet Owners and Guests on Vacation Safety.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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