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Your pet and the holidays

You may think the devil (or angel) costume is particularly fitting for your pet at Halloween, but unless you know your pet loves it, refrain from dressing him up. This includes dressing him like Santa later on. (©iStockphoto.com/LuisCarlosTorres) You may think the devil (or angel) costume is particularly fitting for your pet at Halloween, but unless you know your pet loves it, refrain from dressing him up. This includes dressing him like Santa later on. (©iStockphoto.com/LuisCarlosTorres)

By Julie Pasquinelli, Communications Director, Pets911.com

The holiday season brings visitors and party invitations, family gatherings and house decorations. It usually means fun, laughter and gifts of all kinds. While we enjoy this time of year, our pets may not. Especially if your pet is new to your household, take a look at these tips to help keep your pets safe.

Create A Safe Place For Your Pets

Starting with Trick-or-treaters, then carolers, and ending with fireworks at a New Year’s Bash, our homes get busy with unfamiliar noises and guests coming and going. Add in your own preparing for parties and buying presents, and that makes it easy for your dog or cat to slip out the door without anybody immediately noticing.

Constant doorbell ringing, noisy guests, and party noises can stress out even calm pets. Give them a place where they can get away from it all. Make sure it is a comfortable familiar place, away from the activities. Give your pet his favorite toy or chewie, or just let him nap.

Maintain Regular Routines

Pets are creatures of habit. As our schedules and environments change during the holidays, pets may become confused and stressed out. Minimizing stress for your animal means being aware of his daily routine and expectations. By keeping your regular schedule, even if play time and walks are shorter, you help reduce stress in your pet and also prevent them from gaining holiday weight. It also gives you time to re-connect so that he knows even if things are a little crazy right now, you are still family.

Feeding

It’s tempting to share the Halloween loot and lavish holiday dinners with your pets but the rich and fatty foods can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, or even worse, a life threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Chocolate candy or baking ingredients, even in small amounts, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Larger amounts can cause abnormal heart rhythms, nervous system malfunctions, and even death. Feeding people food to your pets can also contribute to weight gain. If you feel you must treat your pet, make sure to have a supply of his favorite treats so he can have something special, too.

Ask Your Guests To Help

If the party is at your house, remind your guests not to leave their plates or glasses where your pet can reach them. Alcoholic beverages are especially dangerous: an ounce of alcoholic beverage can put a small dog into a coma. If a guest sees your animal eating what he shouldn’t, allow them to tell your pet “no” and get you right away.

Decorate Safely

Witches and ghosts add a fun atmosphere to any house at Halloween, giving way to pictures of turkeys at Thanksgiving, and Santa and reindeer for Christmas and other holidays. Whether using paper cut outs or life size statues, these unfamiliar items pique your pets’ interest which means...it goes in the mouth! All decorations should be safely out of pets’ each. If your pet is too ingenious where no decoration is safe, consider decorating the outside of your house instead. It may sound like a good idea to trim your tree with edible decorations like popcorn, but this is actually dangerous to pets! These kinds of decorations can cause upset stomachs, or more damage if they ingest the string.

Plants to be aware of are poinsettia which can cause drooling, oral pain, and vomiting; and mistletoe which causes vomiting, labored breathing, shock, and death from cardiovascular collapse. If your pet eats the needles from a real or fake tree, they can get intestinal blockage.

Christmas trees are tempting to pets. Secure large trees to the wall to prevent tipping, or consider a smaller tree that can fit on a table top. Fasten all your tree decorations securely, with the more fragile ones towards the top. Avoid tinsel which is attractive to cats, but can cause intestinal blockage if ingested. Make sure that cords are covered or tucked out of reach; more cords mean more to chew on, and this can lead to electrocution. Display candles on high shelves so your pet does not get singed or burned.

Dressing Up

You may think the devil (or angel) costume is particularly fitting for your pet at Halloween, but unless you know your pet loves it, refrain from dressing him up. This includes dressing him like Santa or a Reindeer later on. Costumes can restrict movement or get caught and harm your pet. A festive collar and/or leash is safer and easier to use, and you can use them year after year without your pet outgrowing them.

Cleaning Up

Left over Halloween candy should be put up in a cupboard or refrigerator. Secure your garbage in bins with tight lids, especially if you have thrown away any food. Tin foil with food remnants looks like a treat to dogs; they can chew up holiday throwaways which can result in intestinal perforation and/or obstruction.

Presents

Return paper and other gift wrapping materials to their storage places after gift wrapping is finished. Put away children's toys after they are opened. Ingested toys can cause choking and intestinal blockage, and must usually be removed through surgery. Gifts that come in the mail are always a nice surprise, but if any of them contain food, your pet will know before you open it. Dogs have been known to tear into packages when they smell food.

Traveling

If you want to take your pet with you when visiting friends and relatives during the holidays, be sure to contact them in advance to find out if your pet is welcome. The safest way to transport pets is to have them ride in a crate in the car. Give them their favorite toys or treats to occupy the time. Stop for breaks every hour or two to stretch their legs and potty. When you do get out of the car, keep him on a leash, even if you don’t normally do so. It is easy to get lost in an unfamiliar area if he runs off. Make sure all vaccines and health issues are up-to-date. Bring an extra day or two worth of any medicine in case you are delayed. Keep a collar and tag on your pet. Write your phone number on the collar with a permanent marker, in case the tag falls off. It’s a good idea to include your number and the number of where you will be staying. Microchips are great because you don’t have to worry about them being lost.

If you are not taking your pet with you, you need to decide if you want to put him in a kennel or hire a sitter. This site can help your decision: www.canismajor.com/dog/choseken.html .

As Gifts

Christmas and the first night of Hanukkah are not appropriate times for introducing an animal to his or her new home. The pet will be thrown into a hectic situation; there is usually too much activity for an animal to feel comfortable in his new home. With all the excitement of the holidays, people tend to forget that there is a ten to twenty year commitment involved in caring for a companion animal. Before obtaining a pet, the entire family should be consulted. All adults living in the household should meet and spend time with the new pet before adopting a companion dog or cat. Some solutions are to “virtually” adopt a pet as the gift (sponsor the pet), then go get a real one later. Or, buy a gift certificate to the shelter and give a leash and collar, bowls, toys, and other necessities as the gift to open. Then when life returns back to normal, go as a family to pick your new member.

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