Wishing You a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season with Your Pet
The holidays are upon us! Let’s make it a safe and joyful season for our pets, too, with a little extra time, care, and attention.
If you have animals in your home, make sure that your decorating is pet-friendly. New pet owners are often surprised at how many decorations are irresistible – yet risky – to their pets. A few items to consider:
- Christmas tree – Consider safely anchoring the tree, either to the ceiling or with a wide, secure tree stand. Try to prevent animals from drinking the water in the stand to minimize any gastrointestinal (GI) upset, and do not add any preservatives to the water. Use care with ornaments. Glass ornaments can fall and break causing injury. Unprotected electrical cords can cause electrical shocks and burns. Tinsel and ribbons are particularly irresistible to cats; swallowing them can lead to deadly obstructions.
- Mistletoe, holly, lilies, poinsettias, amaryllis, balsam, pine, cedar – many of the holiday plants that add a festive air to our homes are actually toxic to our animal companions ranging from mild (GI upset) to severe (kidney failure). It is especially important to use care when these plants are brought to the home as gifts. Err on the side of caution, and leave the plants in a location that pets cannot reach. If it is discovered that a plant has been ingested, contact your local or emergency veterinarian or call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline for advice.
- Candles – Lit candles can be a source of danger in the household. Curious pets may suffer burns or knock over a flame and start a fire. Do not leave lit candles unattended.
Many pet owners want to share the holiday by giving their pets the leftovers of a rich holiday meal, or a pet might indulge himself by eating out of the kitchen trash or off of an unattended plate. A few suggestions:
- Do not let guests or family members “treat” the family pet with leftovers. Fatty or spicy foods can lead to GI upset or worse, a deadly inflammation of the pancreas. Ingested bones can cause GI obstruction or chipped teeth. Chocolate, the sweetener xylitol, raisins, grapes, and onions are all toxic to our pets
- Do not leave cocktails unattended where pets might imbibe. Alcohol, medications, and illicit drugs can all lead to fatal toxicities.
- Be sure to keep kitchen counters clear of leftovers or supervised at all times. Maintain locked lids on all trash cans, and remove trash promptly from the home.
Gathering together with friends and family is an essential part of many holiday traditions, but parties can be an anxious time for our pets. Below are a few tips to ensure that your holiday celebrations are a safe place for your pets, too.
- Assign one responsible person in the family with “pet duty.” This person will be in charge of making sure that the pet’s eating, exercise, and elimination habits remain as close to normal as possible. This helps to ensure meals, potty breaks, and litter box cleanings will not be forgotten.
- Maintain a quiet, safe zone for pets. It can be helpful to keep pets in a quiet room away from the party activities. Consider labeling the room as off-limits or locking the door so that the animals are not disturbed. Make sure that pets have all their necessary resources in their safe zone: food, water, toys, litter boxes, beds, scratching posts, etc.
- Inform your guests that there are animals in the home before the party. Providing this information allows allergic or immunocompromised guests to make an informed decision about their attendance. It also allows them time to make any necessary preparations they may need to add to their enjoyment of the gathering.
- Mind the door! In the busy comings and goings of a party, a pet can easily slip out through an open door. Being watchful at the door, or better yet, placing a pet in a back room, can minimize the possibility of a lost pet. Taking a little time before the party to make sure that your pet has a collar and microchip with up-to-date contact information can greatly increase the chance of a happy reunion.
- Be a conscientious guest and leave your own pet at home. A busy holiday gathering is not the time to introduce your pet to another household. Do not expect the party host to be able to accommodate your pet.
It can be fun to include our pets in our holiday gift-giving. Remember all toys should be enjoyed with supervision. Some suggestions for fun pet-friendly gift ideas include:
- Cat gifts: Dental treats, feline toothbrush, scratching post tower, cardboard cat scratcher, stuffed catnip toy, laser pointer, interactive cat dancer, pop-up tunnel, ping pong ball, cardboard box, and an open paper bag.
- Dog gifts: Dental chews, canine toothbrush, indestructible chew toy, tooth-friendly ball, fetch toy, regular exercise, and positive obedience training lessons.
Cheers to a happy, healthy holiday season to you and your pet!
By Tiffany L. Mitchener, DVM