Hard to believe but it’s holiday time again: This year, don’t let your pet put a damper on your celebrations. With so much planning to do, so many distractions, it’s easy to forget them. To avoid pet problems, here are some simple holiday tips to keep your pets safe and happy.
- Christmas tree decorations can be hazardous. In Tinsel Town and all over SoCal, tinsel or small ornaments can be swallowed and obstruct the gastrointestinal tract. Cats, ferrets, puppies and young dogs are particularly attracted to these items. Glass ornaments may fall and shatter; glass shards will cut your pet’s paws. To avoid these problems you might discontinue placing shiny tinsel and tiny or fragile ornaments on the lower branches of your tree. You could put up a barrier to block entry to the room where the tree is kept. Electrified mats can be placed around the base of your tree to deliver a mild but aversive foot shock (it feels like static electricity) that should keep inquisitive critters away. At least, rethink the ornaments you use to decorate your tree and your home so that they are pet friendly.
- Keep children’s toys, as well as wrapping ribbons and bows, safely put away. Small parts of games, stuffed animals (think of plastic eyes, for instance), batteries and more can result in an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital. Give your puppies and dogs rawhide strips, sticks or batons (avoid knotted bones unless your dog unravels them) to keep their mouths busy with safer items.
- Seasonal plants, such as mistletoe and poinsettias are toxic to pets if ingested in sufficient quantity. Young pets in particular like to chew on novel items; pets at any age can occasionally nibble on house plants. To be safe, elevate those decorative, seasonal plants so that they remain safely out of your pet’s reach.
- Consider boarding pets the day of your party so they are not under foot. If you prefer to keep them at home, confine them to a quiet room of your home; use a large, roomy crate or pen if they are used to one already. Place a "Do Not Enter" sign on the door to discourage curious adults and consider locking the door to keep out visiting children.
- If your pet is unsupervised, keep food and appetizers away from them by serving them from elevated surfaces. Be watchful of food that is dropped onto the floor. Keep that garbage can secure, too! Gastrointestinal upsets are common at veterinary clinics this time of year.
- If you are traveling from home for a day or several days, ask friends, family or neighbors to care for your pet cats or pocket pets (such as ferrets, hamsters, rabbits). Pets should be confined to a pet-proofed room or to their familiar cages in your absence.
Holiday Tips for Well-Behaved Pets
- Follow your pet’s daily routine as closely as possible. We are all creatures of habit and routine is comforting. Schedule changes are stressful and inevitable, especially around the holidays. Try to compensate for this disruption by spending more quality time with your pet.
- If your pets tend to be aggressive or fearful of people, suffer from separation anxiety syndrome or have any other behavior problems, this is not the time to retrain them. There is just too much going on to focus on it now. But by all means do address these issues of misbehavior when the festivities are over. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to get help for your misbehaving pet. Pet behavior problems can be dealt with after the holidays are over. For now, avoid the situations that could become disasters.
Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist based at California Veterinary Specialists in Carlsbad, CA. and at the Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, CA. Vsit www.petbehavior.org and www.californiaveterinaryspecialists.com for more information.