I start out this post thinking of the many, many things that can be a hazard to our furry family members around the holidays. I made a list of the common (turkey anyone?) and uncommon risks to our pets during the holidays (seriously why would anyone swallow an entire strand of Christmas lights!). I ended up with a rather grumpy list of things not to do that put a bit of a damper on my holiday spirit (where is fall anyway??).
So, I decided to head back to the drawing board. I love the holidays. It is a wonderful time with family and friends and of course our pets also. There are many things you can and should do with your pet that are fun and will help keep everyone safe during the holidays.
Here are my top things to do with pets during the holiday season:
Buy them their own treats. Yes, there are all sorts of holiday treats we enjoy that they can’t have (chocolate, fatty foods, etc). However, a walk through any pet supply store or pet bakery will give you an overwhelming amount of treats and toys that your pet can enjoy. There are also plenty of homemade options online. So, hang that puppy stocking up with care and fill it with treats for your pup (or kitten). Toys have the added bonus of not having calories and being interactive for the whole family. Then you can keep your own holiday treats out of reach of pets while they enjoy their own version of the festivities.
Set up a cute background. Some pets are just fine wearing costumes. Others, however, would just as soon skip Halloween and head straight to Thanksgiving. The closest my dogs have come to costumes is an antler headband that I found one Christmas. They were less than thrilled and I am pretty sure Rusty would think life had ended if I put him in a Halloween costume. If your dog or cat loves being dressed up then, by all means, get them their very own costume. If your pet would rather skip dressing up, set up a cute festive background and get some stress free photos.
Give them a safe space. Halloween is just around the corner. A night of doorbell ringing is Rusty’s worst nightmare (that and fireworks, and people he doesn’t know, and anything noisy…). My dog, and many others out there, just don’t enjoy the noise and crowds that can come with the holidays. If your dog or cat is a social butterfly, he or she may love nothing better than meeting every one of your visitors and joining in the costume contest. For the shy canine and feline counterparts, set them up with a quiet space and some of their favorite activities to keep them busy on the louder nights of the year.
Keep your decorations pet safe and secure. Pet proofing during the holidays is the same as baby proofing. With a toddler running around the house, we will be taking extra steps this year to secure our Christmas tree and other decorations. Tethering your tree and putting up baby gates to keep pets from areas where they might cause mischief are good options. Artificial plants can be good to keep from experiencing the GI upset that can occur if your pet chews on a poinsettia. Mistletoe, holly and pine needles can also lead to GI upset and lilies cause kidney failure in cats. Stick with decorations that your dogs and cats won’t be likely to swallow or chew on. Tinsel and ribbon are particularly appealing to cats and can cause big problems.
Enjoy quiet time inside by the fire. There is a high in the 80s today (again, where is fall??) so I can’t really imagine a fire in the fireplace, but I am really looking forward to snuggling up with the pups and a cat or two and a good book by our new fireplace. Make sure to fire place screens in place. If you use candles in your decorations, get the battery operated kind. If you use space heaters during winter get the kind that don’t get hot on the outside or keep them in a location where your dog or cat can’t curl up right next to them and get burned. Watch the temperatures outside and bring pets in when it starts to get cold out there. New Year’s Eve fireworks and Halloween festivities outside can scare pets and cause them to run away. Keep your pets inside during noisy festivities.
Above all, if you have any questions about your pet during this holiday season, call a veterinarian and ask. Your veterinarian, and the after hour emergency clinics, will always be willing to answer your questions and tell you if your pet needs to be seen or not.
Here is wishing you and your's a happy and safe holiday season!
Stephanie and her family moved to Indianapolis from Texas in 2015. She and her husband John have been happily married since 2010. They have a one year old son named Jack. They share their home with two dogs, Torchy and Rusty, and two cats, Timmy and Kit Kat. Stephanie has a BS in Animal Behavior from Southwestern University and a DVM from Texas A&M University. She is an associate veterinarian at VCA Animal Hospital o f Plainfield and has a special interest in veterinary behavior. Stephanie is passionate about being a wife, a mom, and a veterinarian. She loves spending time playing with her son, cooking with her husband, training and playing with their two dogs, and snuggling with her cats on the couch. When taking time for herself, she enjoys yoga, running, reading, and the occasional massage . The views expressed in this article are Stephanie's and do not necessarily reflect the views of her employer.