The Hovawart Club of Great Britain

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The pitfalls of owning a Hovawart at Christmas
By: Sue Scully

(Please sing where appropriate*)

*"Chestnuts roasting by an open fire"

Take away the 'chest'; part and we have hazard number one, the Hovawart does have a very long, very bushy tail, BEWARE! Make sure your Hovawart is protected from open fires; use a guard that prevents hot coals spitting out.

*"Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus"

Could be a problem, as we all know the Hovawart is a guarding breed, if your Hovawart lets him in, will your Hovawart let him leave! If your Hovawart has never encountered somebody dressing up in silly outfits - treat as a socialisation exercise.

*"Deck the halls with bows of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la"

HOLLY (Ilex) IS POISONOUS, the berries are an irritant and toxic.

PONSETTIA (Euphorbia pulcherrima) leaves stem and sap as above but would have to be eaten in significant qualities.

Very toxic or deadly plants include the berries from Mistletoe (Viscum album) and the branches and wood from the Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus).

*“Christmas time, Mistletoe and wine”

If you are having a party or visiting friends, make sure your dog has no access unsupervised to alcohol or tobacco. If the dog is allowed to go into a garden you are not familiar with make sure they don't go near a compost heap, which could be deadly with things like coffee grounds, or stones from apricots and peaches. Your friends may not be used to pets and have cocoa shell mulch spread around their plants, which is also a danger. Your dog may also get out of their garden if not Hovawart proof.

*"Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree"

Any presents left under the tree as far as the Hovawart is concerned have been put there for them to check out, or they could contain presents for the avid angling enthusiast complete with hooks.

There may be luxury chocolates. Chocolate warrants a more detailed discussion, it contains a chemical called Theobromine which to the dog is highly toxic, it is a stimulant and its irritant action cause adverse effects throughout the dogs body. Theobromine passes into the dog's bloodstream rapidly, increasing heart rate; respiration is affected with following fits. The increased heart rate results in thirst, then vomiting the dog would be very distressed and could die.

The levels of Theobromine in different chocolates differs widely, as a rough guide 1 gram of milk chocolate contains 1.5mg, whilst 1 gram of dark chocolate contains 13.7 grams, the lowest dose recorded as causing death was 110mg. Its quite hard to work out in lay terms just how much is actually lethal but knowing how dangerous chocolate could be especially dark chocolate, its better to be safe than sorry. Consuming 1lb of milk chocolate could kill a dog that weighs 10kg. My vet listed types of chocolate starting with the most to the least poisonous: Cocoa bean, cooking chocolate, semi-sweet or plain chocolate, milk chocolate, hot chocolate powder to white chocolate.

*"Them bones them bones them, dry bones, them bones them bones them dry bones"

(Yes I know it's not a Christmas song but how else was I going to include the hazard of the turkey carcass or any other cooked bones being eaten!)

Don't be too relaxed after Christmas lunch; make sure an enterprising Hovawart isn't helping himself to the turkey. If you decide to go for a walk after dinner make sure you and your dog have had long enough to digest the food you've eaten, dogs can get a condition known as 'bloat' which I would rather not go into, as a rule a dog should not be exercised if it has just eaten.

*"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!

Yeah, right! It could be jingle bells all the way to the vet, if your dog decides to consume your tree decorations, baubles, tinsel. Every year vets are kept busy over the holiday, dealing with dogs that have eaten bizarre objects. Many Hovawarts live by the motto 'if in doubt - eat it!'

Other hazards could include a dog running out of a visitor's house, due to unfamiliar surroundings. A thought just came to me along the lines of ‘Auntie Mary had a canary’ - but suffice it to say if you are visiting, check to see if they have any pets your dog may not be used to, like gerbils or hamsters. If you are staying with relatives don't forget to take your dog food with you, if you forget to take the food they are used to and have to buy some unknown brand like 'Mr. Sloshy's kibble', you could have a dog with diarrhoea to deal with all over the holiday!

"Silent night, holy night, all things calm, all things bright"

Well it could be if you take a little extra thought of what could go wrong, so take heed….

"Have yourselves a merry little Christmas!"
This article was posted on: 01-Jan-09