I have worked emergencies during the holidays for many years, and I can tell you that the main reasons people came to the clinic on a late night call were issues that could have been prevented.
Please keep the following in mind this holiday season.
Pets & Cars
In cold weather, many outdoor cats will seek shelter underneath your car or your guest’s car because its warm. Bang on the hood and honk your horn before starting the engine.
Also look under the car to make sure someone’s old deaf dog is not laying under the wheels.
With too much excitement in the home because of a party, or because of fireworks exploding, many animals will “take off” and run away from the house, putting themselves in danger of being hit by oncoming traffic in the street.
Keep your pets indoors or in a secure comfortable place away from the party.
Indulging in Holiday Foods
Yes, it’s a festive time of year, and a time for relaxing, sharing, and partaking in good food…but that doesn’t mean that you should slip scraps of decadent food to your pets.
People will often feed harmful table scraps such as cookies, cake, food with gravy and salad dressing, processed meats (like spam, hot dogs, ham, or even turkey meat processed with nitrites and excess salt), spicy food, chocolate, chips and dip, turkey and chicken bones. It’s not worth the risk! Spoiled meats, custards, pies, fatty and rich foods often will create intestinal problems resulting in vomiting and diarrhea from “food poisoning,” or more serious problems such as gall bladder irritation, high blood sugar, and pancreatitis.
Try feeding appropriate real food instead. Safe and appropriate snacks include small amounts of meat, toast, vegetables (such as sweet potato, broccoli), and grains (such as white or brown rice).
Pets should be fed BEFORE guests arrive, and kept in a separate room that is quiet and comfortable during the party (to avoid counter surfing while everyone is distracted). Set your pets up for success by keeping them out of range of the platters of food. Also, be mindful of your guests, and keep your pets away from kids with food or adults that have a tendency to feed scraps to your pets despite your polite requests not to.
Holiday Decor Considerations
When you decorate this year, be sure to use pet-friendly decorations.
If you’ve got cats, this means no tinsel on the trees, and if you’ve got very food-oriented dogs, you probably can’t trim the tree with garlands of marshmallow or Cheerios.
Supervise your pets around the tree to make sure they are not chewing or ingesting ornaments or drinking the water from the tree container (or using the tree as an indoor toilet)!
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
During this time of the year, many of us will hold holiday parties and gatherings, which often include many of our friends and family.
Our pets may not be used to having so many visitors over at one time though, so do your best to be your pet’s advocate and ensure that everyone has a good time this holiday season.
- Avoid dog bites and injuries by feeding all pets separately (including the pets of guests, if they are invited over) and away from the main party.
- Don’t leave small children unsupervised with pets.
- Be sure that children don’t have food or toys in their hands while around the pets.
- Give all of the pets a break from the hustle and bustle of the festivities every couple of hours or so by confining them to a back room or kennel.
- Monitor your pets for signs of stress so that you know when they should be removed from the party.
Pets & Pet Sitters
If you’re traveling this holiday season and have entrusted your pet’s care to a pet sitter, be sure to include the pet sitter’s name and phone number on a collar tag placed onto the collar. I’ve heard of many instances of stressed dogs escaping from the home while under the pet sitter’s care. Also be sure that your sitter knows what protocol to follow in the event that your pet goes missing. It’s a good practice to leave photos of your pet and provide a written description that the sitter can run in a Craigslist ad or call into the radio station if your pet goes missing. Preparation only takes a few minutes, but can mean a speedy return of your pet – it’s worth the effort!
Stay safe this holiday season, and I’ll see you all in the New Year! :)