Pets are part of the family and add to the joy of holiday celebrations. With all that tail-wagging fun ahead, beware of potential mischief and manage your household to ensure the safety of your pet(s). With a few techniques mentioned below, you and your pet(s) are headed to holiday bliss!
Avoid giving pets dangerous foods.
Ensure your pet does not sample your eggnog, spiced apple cider, or other holiday beverage! Canine and feline kidneys are unable to effectively process even small amounts of alcohol. In addition, avoid giving your pets bones and fatty foods, such as turkey skin or rich foods. Bones may splinter and fatty foods may cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, such as loose stool, or even pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas (ouch!) and other unpleasant GI tract symptoms. Have your pet stick to his normal foods, such as kibble and treats specifically made for pets, during the holidays.
Decorate with pet safety in mind.
First, avoid decorating with dangerous plants, such as holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias at pet-height (a height that could be reached by your pet). Second, do not put certain decorations – especially lit candles - at tail-whacking or nose-bumping height. Use battery candles instead of real candles! Third, ensure your pet does not have access to the holiday tree’s water. Often the tree water is contaminated from fertilizers and drinking that water could be harmful. Fourth, consider the best way to have a safe tree in your house. Do you need to anchor the tree so that a nimble cat does not tip the tree? Should you use shatterproof ornaments? Should you put your tree in a play-pen or x-pen (an x-pen is basically a play pen for pets)? Skip decorating the tree with tempting food items, such as popcorn or candy canes. Ensure that holiday lighting cords are out of the way of curious snouts and fuzzy paws that could become tangled.
Train your houseguests.
Your houseguests may not be used to having pets around or may be used to pets that have a different “reach” or “desire” to explore belongings. A friend who owns Corgis may be able to keep chocolate on her counters at home, but your friend with a Labrador probably does not keep anything potentially yummy at counter height! Your cousin with a senior dog may not be used to thinking about your exuberant puppy that is still working on eliminating his door bolting habit. What should you do?
- Ask your houseguests to close bedroom and bathroom doors to ensure that your pets do not have access to any toiletries or medications that may make them ill. You could also use baby-gates to section off your house.
- Remind houseguests to take extra care to close exterior doors and to ensure no pets “escape” when the houseguests are entering and exiting your home.
- Request that guests do not feed your pets any table scraps or other items. If the guests want to spoil your pet a little with a special treat, suggest that your guest give some pet treats that you know your pet likes and that agree with your pet’s stomach.
- Keep a “clean counter” policy. Request that food is not left on counters or tables unattended unless your pet is secured (in a crate or a different room).
Sort and protect gifts.
Ask guests to not put gifts that contain food under the tree or consider not putting any gifts out until it is time to open presents! This may prevent your curious pooch or kitty from ripping open (and then ingesting) a present that contains chocolate or other hazardous foods. You could also keep all presents or just food-related presents in a separate location, such as a closet or a spare room, until the gift opening. Finally, consider having your pet on a leash during gift opening so he does not sneak into someone’s opened gift pile for a snack or play session with items that are not his! An alternative to having your dog on leash during gift opening is having your pup on his mat during the event. See this blog for how to teach your dog to “go to your mat.”
Manage your pet.
Put pets in a safe bedroom when you cannot watch them or crate the dog for a few minutes while you get a handle on a bustling situation, such as arriving houseguests. If you can’t watch your pets, it’s okay to manage the situation with containment or even by tethering your pet with a leash to your waist.