The Holiday season, is upon us. Most of us gather for the holidays to spend time with family and friends, so naturally pets are amongst the group too. We see relatives and friends that we haven’t seen for years and sometimes we lose track of what’s going on with Fluffy and Fido. Since the holidays are a time for joy we want to help you prepare yourself and home so everyone including the pets can have a good time and you can put your mind at ease and enjoy the company.
We have all slipped the dog waiting patiently at your feet a little piece of turkey here and there. After all, it’s the season for giving. Think twice about what you are handing out. Dogs and cats are very sensitive to salt, sugar and fat, which, if your meal is done by tradition should be mostly what you are eating these holidays. That turkey from Thanksgiving wasn’t just turkey, but lots of salt and pepper and a healthy coating of fatty gravy too. If you give a hand out, there is also someone else willing as well, so keep in mind that your “little gift” could be one of many. An overfed, bloated pet is cause for concern or even an expensive trip to the vet!
Here are a few things to keep away from your pets during those special holiday occasions:
Raw bread (or any yeast based) dough: The yeast will expand in the stomach causing extreme pain, bloating and some seriously wicked gas. Phew!
Dessert: Sugar is bad, really bad for dogs but artificial sweeteners like xylitol are deadly even in tiny amounts. No chocolate either, most people know it’s toxic to dogs but the darker the more dangerous. Stick to the dog biscuits. We suggest having a bowl with very small treats for your giving family and friends to share with the dogs or cats.
Poinsettia’s: These beautiful flowers are a regular tradition for Christmas, but just like most red plants they are dangerous. If you’re getting one of these beauties for friends think twice if they have pets. Many people don’t know how toxic they can be to nibbling kitties.
Christmas tree tinsel: This can prove to be too tempting for your kitties and not only will they play with it (and potentially pull the tree down), but if ingested tinsel can twist their intestines while their body is trying to pass it and cause lots of painful and expensive damage to their digestive tracts. This goes for decorative ribbons on presents too. A twisted bowel is deadly for cats or dogs.
Tree lights: These can be dangerous if they chew the cord, so consider a bitter chew deterrent if your pets have this curious habit (make sure to spray it on while the lights are unplugged!).
Now you have a good basis of what to keep away from your pets during the holidays, you should honor the idea of giving too, so here is a list of things to GIVE to your pets:
Something to chew and occupy their time: Even though the house is full of people, your pets may not get as much attention. Consider long lasting chews like Bully Sticks, elkhorns, or a Himalayan Yak chew. These treats often last longer than rawhide chews and are more digestible. Just make sure that you keep an eye out to ensure they are NOT eating it too fast. Another treat that takes time is a Kong (for cats or dogs) filled with a little low sugar peanut butter (or for cats, cat treats like bonito flakes). Freezing the Kong with stuffing can make the treat time last even longer and give them more of a challenge.
A safe space away from all the action: Not all pets are social butterflies, and often with strangers in the house they can be stressed out easily, especially cats who are not as attached to people as they are their territory. Often a closed bedroom, basement or bathroom out of the way can give them a necessary break. If you know you have a pet that is less than thrilled with a group of visitors consider boarding them over the holidays too. Most boarding facilities are open over the holidays for that very reason.
A jacket for cold weather: If your dog doesn’t have a nice thick double coat and they spend a large amount of time outdoors consider something to keep them warm. Yes we know it’s dressing up the dog, but they will thank you for it. There are a wide variety of ways to dress them warm, from light vests, warm hoodies, and even heavy fleece. The most important part to keep warm is their chest and feet. These two places are where 80% of their body heat is exchanged. There are even booties lined with fleece to keep their feet warm in the snow, and keep out those little balls of snow they get between their toes.
Warm, elevated outdoor shelter: If you or the dog does not want to dress up, you can ensure their outside shelter is size appropriate, insulated, and up off the ground to keep them comfortable. A dog house left directly on frozen ground will stay as much as 24 degrees colder than one just a mere 3” inches off the ground, and if it’s tight quarters then their body has to make less heat to stay warm too. Consider using straw under and in their dog house to help insulate them from the cold temperatures.