1. ROUTINE: Keeping regular mealtimes and walks or play-times will reduce stress for you and your pets during the hectic holidays.
2. PET SITTING: If you’re traveling, consider leaving your pets in a boarding facility or arranging for a pet sitter rather than burden your hosts with additional guests.
3. VISITING WITH PETS: If your hosts have four-legged companions, the pets should be supervised while they are getting to know one another. If you’re visiting a home without pets, monitor yours at all times – its amazing the trouble they can find in a non-pet-proofed house.
4. DIET: Stock up on pet food before the holidays to avoid a bare cupboard and sudden diet changes, which can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. It’s also a good idea to carry water from home or bottled water if you are traveling.
5. TREATS AND PEOPLE FOOD: Take it easy on the treats. Excessive amounts of any new food including pet treats can cause digestive upset. If visitors find your little darlings irresistible, then ration out a number of treats each day and be firm–its in their best interest. Some of the foods in abundance at holiday time can be especially troublesome. Chocolate can be poisonous to dogs. Make sure the trash is tightly closed–turkey bones, turkey and gravy can cause serious problems.
6. TEMPTING DECORATIONS: Cats find dangling decorations irresistible and are known to eat tinsel, which can cause fatal intestinal injuries. Secure the tree to the wall or ceiling with a heavy cord or wire – one ambitious kitty can cause a catastrophe. Both dogs and cats might eat decorative plants including poinsettias, which are toxic.
7. WEATHER: Pets should be kept indoors during the coldest weather. They need a dry, draft-free shelter and fresh water (not frozen) at all times. Pets that spend more time outdoors may require more food at this time of year, they will be burning extra calories to keep warm.
8. NEW PETS: The holiday season is not the time to get a new pet. The activity and attention will overwhelm puppies and kittens, and increase the risk of intestinal problems or trouble with house-training. Why not adopt a new pet after the holidays when everyone can spend time welcoming the new member to the family.
9. HEALTH INSURANCE: Consider putting a pet health insurance plan under the tree at Christmas this year. For more information contact your veterinarian for insurance information. Many plans are reasonable priced and offer different types of coverage, and offer peace of mind for you and your pets.
10. TIME AND LOVE: Although you are busy with your family and friends at this time of year, your pets still need you. Take time to enjoy a quiet moment or play a favorite game. You’ll reconnect with them and they will help you relax and enjoy the festive season.
By Faye Whyte, B.Sc, DVM