It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Holiday season is here and it’s a great time to be celebrating with loved ones, especially our pets. But some things involved in our usual holiday cheer can be harmful to our beloved furbabies. Here is a list of ways to keep your pets safe and happy this holiday season.
1. Alternative Holiday Décor
When it comes to the holidays, we’re all about those festive decorations to help get in the holiday spirit. But while many of these decorations are harmless, some can be dangerous for pets. For example, holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and mistletoe can cause cardiovascular problems. It’s best to opt for artificial versions of these classic plants. And tinsel, if swallowed, can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to find substitute decorations that give the same shiny appeal.
2. Hosting Guests/Visitors
With the holidays comes more guests and that means more noise pets aren’t used to, even pets who aren’t shy around people. If you are hosting guests, especially children, set some house rules when it comes to giving your pet attention so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Because an overwhelmed pet can lead to injury to either you, your guests or your pet. In addition to rules for your guests, leave open a pet-only room with your pet’s necessities (water, food, toys, etc.) so if they do feel overwhelmed, they have a quiet place to escape to.
3. Gift Wrapping Hazards
Gift wrapping is not everyone’s forte, but keeping pets away from gift wrapping materials and supplies is something everyone can do. Do your gift wrapping in a closed room or an area of the house pets can’t get to. Wrapping paper, string, ribbon, plastic pieces or cloth could all cause intestinal blockages if chewed on and ingested. And make sure that tools like scissors are kept off floors or low tables when not in use. Once complete, be cautious about leaving wrapped gifts with ribbon and bows under the tree. Store the ribbon- or bow-decorated gifts higher up or towards the back where pets can’t get to them.
4. To Eat or Not to Eat?
What’s holiday celebrations without some good, delicious food? While you may occasionally sneak some morsels from your plate to your pet as a treat any other time during the year, it is important to be more aware during the holidays, especially if you have guests who may not know what is safe for animals to eat. Instruct your guests to keep plates (and alcoholic beverages, too!) out of pet reach, and read up on what is safe and unsafe for pets to snack on. Some examples of unsafe human foods for pets are nuts, onions, eggs, bones, salt, grapes and more.
5. Plan in Advance
This can apply to any in the list so far, but it’s also important on its own. It’s best to be prepared for any emergency situations, especially if it involves your fur baby. Have your veterinarian’s number in an easy-to-find location in your house and know the fastest way to get there or a 24/7 emergency vet clinic should your pet get injured or ingests anything they shouldn’t have. And if you can’t contact your veterinarian, there are pet hotlines you can call, like the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline, that are available for emergency situations.
6. House Safety While Away
Seems like something you do any time you leave the house, right? It’s even more crucial to do during the holidays. For example, you may want to leave on your lights and decorations when out at night to keep the visual holiday appeal, but it is safer to unplug all your decorations as pets are more prone to chew on wires when you are gone, especially if they are not used to being left alone for a long period of time. And if you are thinking that simple things like taking out the trash can wait until morning, think again. It’s better to take the extra step to ensure your pets are that much safer while you are out.
7. Outdoor Activities
It may seem like a no-brainer to supervise pets when they go outside to do their business or to play, but it may be harder for you while you plan holiday festivities or are hosting guests. In addition, traffic and travel during the holidays is crazier than normal, so pets have a higher risk of getting hit. Make sure your pet is constantly supervised by you or someone you trust when outdoors. Nights are also darker in the winter time, so have your pet wear high-visibility accessories so it’s easier to spot them in the dark. And wipe or wash their paws when they come back inside to avoid getting infections from the cold.
8. Preventing Burning
We want to do this for humans, but it’s just as important for our pets. Lit candles should be placed on high shelves or mantels, out of the reach of a wagging tail or curious cat. Burning candles should never be unsupervised, and try to keep your pet away from any areas where flames or wax are out in the open. And if you have a fireplace, make sure they have a protective screen so accidental burns can be avoided for both humans and pets.
9. Maintain Routines
While you may have elaborate plans for the holidays, make sure it doesn’t interfere with your daily routine with your pet. Changes in routine causes confusion, which in turn can lead to stress and anxiety for animals. So, if your pet is used to going for a walk or being fed at a specific time, for instance, stick to it. The holidays come and go, so it’s best to work your holiday planning around your pet’s habitual routine so there is no uncertainty with the transitions of the holiday season.
10. Introducing a New Pet
The holidays are not the best time of the year to add a new furry member to the family. Nevertheless, a new pet is a popular gift. If you are expecting to give or receive a new pet, do not sacrifice the protocol for prepping for a new pet. Make sure you have all the supplies ready and the area for them secured, preferably an area furthest from the holiday trimmings. And know that while it may be the holidays, new pets still require extra love and care. In addition, your senior pet may already be witnessing a lot of changes with the holidays, so be sure to take the time to introduce them to the new addition in a way that isn’t stressful for either of them. That way all members, new and old, can enjoy the holidays and greet the new year together.