Pets and Holidays: A Guide to Four-Legged Happiness
We know your dogs and cats are members of the family, but like all the other youngsters in your home, they need special attention and care this holiday season.
All those people – and all those new things – can bring both stress and temptation to your pets. Allison Jones, a veterinarian at the highly rated Mint Hill Animal Hospital, has the tips you need for most every holiday cheer you’ll face.
When company comes
Pets, like people, have different personalities. Some are outgoing and love the idea of company. Others get skittish when too many strangers are in the house.
“Outgoing, gregarious pets probably won’t have a problem with visitors in the house,” Jones says. “But it’s still a good idea to watch them for signs of stress.”
Those signs include nervousness, panting and decreased appetite, which mean that your dog or cat needs a quiet place away from people. Shy pets probably belong in that kind of private space from the start. Keep them in a crate or a separate room – especially for something short-term like a party, Jones says.
For long-term visitors, let the pets make the call on when they want to come out and visit, and ask guests not to chase pets around the house.
It’s also a good idea to make sure all pets are micro-chipped – even those that never go outdoors, because they can slip outside amid all the comings and goings.
When dinner arrives
A good holiday rule of thumb with pets and people food: Don’t.
Don’t feed table food to your pets – especially bones, chocolate, grapes, raisins, raw bread dough or anything that contains the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar.
Don’t feed someone else’s pets if you’re a guest, because some pets have sensitive stomachs or may be on a special diet.
“Even a little bit of unfamiliar food can made them very sick,” Jones says.
When you’re traveling
If you’re going to board pets while you’re away, bring their favorite bed or a blanket that smells like home. Ideally, Jones says, it should be something washable in case it becomes soiled.
“If at all possible, it is a good idea to bring your pet’s own food,” she says. “Sudden changes in food can cause diarrhea, and some pets may not eat a different food well.” Want to keep your pet at home when you’re away? Here are three tips for picking a pet sitter.
If you're taking your pet with you, remember these tips.
When you’re decorating
Just as you do with the newest young additions to your family, think about what kittens and puppies might get into when you’re putting up the tree and other holiday decorations.
“Be careful to keep electrical cords safely out of reach,” Jones says. “Chewing on a plugged-in cord can lead to a potentially fatal shock and can also cause a house fire.”
Also dangerous are common but toxic holiday plants such as poinsettia, mistletoe, Christmas rose, holly and amaryllis.
The Christmas tree brings its own temptations, especially to young dogs and cats. Avoid using glass other breakable ornaments where they can be knocked off. Don’t forget - if you have an adventurous cat, that tree can look like a great, big climbing opportunity.
“You may need to anchor it to a wall,” Jones says. Want more tips on keeping the holiday safe for pets? Angie’s experts know how to help keep your holiday safe and happy.