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Pets and the holidays: Southern Nevada experts on what you should know

Dog file photo
Os Tartarouchos
Getty Images
Dog file photo.

Colder weather is here. Lots of holidays. And people are eager to give each other gifts. Some kids or loved ones will get a pet. A lot goes into that, though, especially in colder weather.

Cold-weather issues that affect people, like flu, pneumonia, arthritis and more, also affect our pets. And some people are considering giving a pet as a gift: is that a good idea?

Lori Heeren is the executive director of the Nevada SPCA.   She joins State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann with Shadi Ireifej, the owner of, and Zachary Adam Dickmeyer with Club K9 Training.

Some people want to give pets as gifts for the holidays. Is that a good idea?

HEREEN: Our recommendation is the same that we recommend throughout the year. If anything, you need to underscore during the holidays that getting a new pet is an emotional experience. But we really encourage people to think past that experience and consider the responsibility and commitment that a pet includes, depending on the species and the age and the breed. … We recommend that in our adoption team talk with the adopters ,with all of these issues, that you consider what that pet is really going to require from your family beyond that initial emotional decision.

We also recommend that during the holidays, it may not be an ideal time to bring a pet home. Pets are looking for routine and structure. And many of us don't have that during the holidays; we're traveling, we have a lot of guests in our home. … And finally, there's a lot of other dangers of the holidays that are not good for animals. If you have an animal that's going to get into your Christmas tree, or with tensile and glass decorations that can be dangerous, as well as some of the holiday goodies like chocolate and raisins that are not good for pets.

 Lori Heeren, Shadi Ireifej and Zachary Adam Dickmeyer
Kristen DeSilva
Lori Heeren, Shadi Ireifej and Zachary Adam Dickmeyer with host Joe Schoenmann at Nevada Public Radio on Dec. 13, 2022.

Yesterday was 34 degrees outside, is that too cold? At what temperature should I bring them in?

IREIFEJ: That's a difficult one, because it does depend on the individual dog, as well as what breeds. Dobermans, for example, we know that very light hair dogs, they're not really meant for that type of weather. So whether or not there's an actual limit to how cold, I'm not sure, but issues like hypothermia and frostbite are real dangers. And so my advice would be to, for those dogs that are lightly haired, you're going to want to make sure they are in warmer environments, especially when it's cold outside, make sure they're only outside for reasons of elimination, so urination and defecation. And they are going to be outside for a certain amount of time. You're not sure about whether or not they can handle that kind of temperature, then doggie sweaters, clothing, booties, these things can help minimize the risks of hypothermia and frostbite.

How can I stop my dog from picking up rocks? I’m worried she’s going to swallow one.

DICKMEYER: Constant supervision is gonna be key. Anytime we have an animal that shows extreme interest in something that we obviously don't want them to have extreme interest in, whether that's rocks or belongings inside your home, getting them desensitized to those objects can be extremely important for their health and safety. So taking the opportunity to get those rocks, those shoes, whatever it is, you find unbeneficial for your dog to be showing interest in around them as often as possible, but with constant supervision, so that you as a responsible dog owner, are able to communicate, ‘Hey, this is an item that is unsafe for you to be playing with.’ And when they are able to redirect their attention, you can practice name recall; practice a little bit of sits and downs around these objects to see if you can get them to redirect and to focus on you can be extremely beneficial as well and how we start to curb some of those behaviors.

Why are my cats obsessed with Christmas trees?

IREIFEJ: I will say there's probably an evolutionary release. … They're at home. They're not doing any hunting; the big cats, lions, tigers, they're in the savannas, they're there in the grass shielded away looking for prey. And so evolutionarily speaking, these cats are going to find enclosures like plants. They are doing it out of curiosity to some degree, but I think there's also a biological/evolutionarily-explained reason why they are they are fascinated by being covered in vegetation.

Is my pet selectively listening to me?

DICKMEYER: They absolutely do. Selective hearing is not just in us husbands, that exist out there and dogs, as well. We're all guilty of it. So you know, older age, we do see it. And some people, we get set in our ways and want to listen when we want to listen, and older dogs can absolutely go through training. I've had 14, 15-year-old dogs come through training quite often … we have to understand if there's any physical limitations involved and be understanding of how much we can demand of the dog. But things like coming to their name, making sure they're not running out doorways. Making sure they're willing to respond to the bare minimums is very realistic for all dogs.

Hear the full interview above.

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.