Strange Voices, Unusual Foods, New Fragrances...and Your Pets!

Ah, Thanksgiving and Christmas – four weeks of holiday bliss.  Turkey, ham, pumpkin pie, cookies, candy, cakes, a beautifully decorated tree, yule logs, presents, stockings hung by the fire, eggnog, Christmas Carols, family, friends – it’s a veritable Hallmark movie!!

All kidding aside, the holidays are a wonderful time to gather with family and friends...many of whom we haven’t seen for quite some time.  While we certainly want everyone to enjoy the festivities, here are a few tips to make sure we keep our furry family members safe and happy as well:

- Undercover Chocolate: Holidays are a prime time for guests to bring gifts of chocolates and other candies – or even the dreaded fruitcake!  Just because those gifts are wrapped doesn’t mean your pet couldn’t chew through the wrapping paper in a hot minute.  Remember, chocolate is toxic to our pets and that wrapping paper could end up causing an intestinal blockage.  And just because you wouldn’t touch grandma’s fruitcake with a ten foot pole doesn’t mean your pet won’t.  And those raisins in grandma’s fruitcake are highly toxic to your pet. Oh, and if grandma’s on a diet and decided to sweeten her fruitcake with a natural sweetener like Xylitol, your pet could be in serious trouble because, you guessed it, Xylitol is highly toxic to pets.

- People food: Take the initiative and let you guests know that you don’t want them to share their food with your pets.  If some of your guests try to make light of your request, politely and tactfully let them know that many foods we love are toxic to dogs and cats and you simply want to keep them healthy and safe.  

- Unattended food: Your pets, especially dogs, are constantly on the lookout for a free meal.  Unattended plates and uncovered trash cans are a free food paradise!!  Stay on the lookout for opportunities for your pet to make a run for the nearest unattended plate of food.  One last note here – if you put bones or other food items in the trash, take it out right away.  No point tempting fate!!

- Coats and purses:  If you have a particularly nosy pet, make sure your guest’s coats and purses are out of reach.  People put all kinds of stuff in their pockets and purses.  Everything from candy to cigarettes to pills to, well you get the picture.  Most of those items are potentially toxic and could lead to an intestinal blockage.

- Plants: During the holidays we often decorate our homes with plants, many of which can cause serious problems if ingested.  Holly and mistletoe are both poisonous and poinsettias can cause nausea and diarrhea.  So keep them out of your pet’s reach.  And lilies, while quite beautiful are extremely toxic and can cause major damage to a cat’s kidneys.

- Pets and Stress:  Just as large gatherings can be stressful for some humans, they can also be stressful for our pets.  Our pets, like us are creatures of habit.  Large gatherings could throw them off their normal routine.  Plus you will likely have some folks who are not pet lovers or are uncomfortable around your pet.  Your pet will pick up on this and may show signs of stress.  If it looks like your pet is becoming stressed or agitated, consider taking him or her for a walk or perhaps to a quiet place in your home.  Your pet will thank you.

- Children and Pets: Here’s where it really pays to know your pet’s temperament well.  Small children, especially toddlers, may not know how to safely approach and play with your pet.  Some pets will simply take this in stride while others will turn tail and head for safety.  However, some pets could become agitated and aggressive.  Watch how your pet reacts to the playful attempts of children and toddlers and respond accordingly.  You don’t want to risk trauma to either the child or your pet.

- Watch the Door: Any time you have guests coming and going, there’s a chance your pet could bolt for the door.  There may even be that certain guest that could cause you to want to bolt for the door.  That’s your call but we definitely don’t want your pet bounding off into the night.  On the off chance that happens, make sure your pet has the proper identification and has been micro-chipped so he or she can be safely returned to you.

- Alcohol:  If your holiday gathering is an adult gathering with alcohol, you might want to consider keeping your pet away.  Even in small amounts, alcohol can reduce inhibitions, impair judgement and reduce coordination.  This could increase the likelihood of unattended food, dropped food and the sharing of food and candy with your pet that might not otherwise happen.  And an unattended glass of alcohol could pose a serious threat to your pet.  By all means, enjoy your party responsibly – just don’t invite your pet.

We hope that your holidays are a joyous time for you, your family and friends.  And by keeping these tips in mind, it will be a joyous and safe time for your pets as well.