The holidays are almost here! Soon, we’ll be putting up decorations, preparing holiday meals and treats, and convening with family and friends—furry ones included. To ensure that this time together is safe and enjoyable for you and your four-legged companions, we have compiled a list of precautions you can take to keep your pets safe and cozy!
Keep Danger Out of Reach
If you opt for holiday décor, make sure decorations and seasonal plants are secured and safe. Keep strings lights taut with cables or twist ties, hang tree ornaments and tinsel out of reach from curious pets, and make sure someone is monitoring lighted candles when pets are out and about. You can also purchase pet-proof decorations, such as shatter-proof ornaments, artificial trees, and flameless electric candles. Make sure to do your research on the toxicity of seasonal plants if you choose to have them. Mistletoe, holly, lilies, and poinsettias can be harmful and even poisonous to animals if ingested.
Provide a Quiet Room
Consider keeping pets in a separate space from your guests when entertaining. This will prevent overstimulation and accidental ingestion of food and drinks. If you choose to have them join the festivities, make sure someone keeps an eye on them (and keeps them out of mischief).
Make Travel Arrangements
If you’re traveling, make arrangements with a trusted pet sitter or kennel. This will ensure your pets stay safe and cared for while you are away, without the stress of extensive travel time. If you plan to take your pets with you and think you may need medication for car sickness or anxiety during the trip, reach out to your veterinarian now to plan accordingly. It is also helpful to be knowledgeable about emergency veterinary clinics in the region you will be visiting in case care is needed.
Tag and Chip Your Pet
Make sure your pets are tagged and chipped. Always a must for pets! If somehow they escape up the chimney with you-know-who, you’ll be able to track them down!
Limit the Table Scraps
Maintaining your pet’s regular diet is our best advice. If you do choose to “treat” your pet, make sure it is a healthy option, such as turkey meat without bones or grease, boiled broccoli, raw carrots or cooked and unflavored sweet potatoes.
Healthy Treat Alternatives
Is it okay to give your pets a morsel or two from your holiday table? Maintaining your pet’s regular diet is the best advice, according to Dr. Heather Brookshire, a board-certified animal ophthalmologist and owner of Animal Vision Center of Virginia. But there are foods that are acceptable and good for eye health.
“If you do choose to ‘treat’ your pet, make sure it is a healthy option, such as turkey meat without bones or grease, boiled broccoli, raw carrots, or cooked and unflavored sweet potatoes,” said Dr. Brookshire. “As long as it’s not too fatty, that’s fine in moderation. And so are green beans and sweet potatoes, both loaded with good nutrients to support eye health.”
Even Bodhi and Fergus, her Italian Spinones, are occasionally given a few cheat foods, including:
- Raw carrots, rich in Vitamin A, B, C, D, K riboflavin, niacin, calcium
- Raw and boiled broccoli, which contains the anti-carcinogenic compound sulforaphane, along with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and potassium—more protein than most other vegetables
- Raw or cooked green beans (without butter or seasoning), good source of fiber and vitamins C, K
- Salmon and tuna, high in Omega-3 fatty acids
- Eggs, protein rich
- Cooked sweet potatoes, packed with beta-carotene
- And don’t forget pumpkin, chock full of Vitamin A and fiber. Serve it raw or cooked, but with no sugar or seasonings.
“Canned pumpkin is also a great food to have around in the event your pet has any gastrointestinal disturbances, due to its high fiber and water content,” added Dr. Brookshire. “Bodhi and Fergus eat a large carrot with their breakfast every morning; it’s their favorite after-breakfast snack!”
Dr. Ashley Powell, DVM, is president of the Coastal Virginia Medical Veterinary Association, an organization that provides support to the region’s veterinary community. When she’s not seeing her amazing pet patients at Animal Medical Center of Virginia Beach, she enjoys riding horses, traveling, and spending time with her dog, Barley, and cats Vinnie, Citra and Rillo.