Preventing the Holidays from Turning into the Howl-i-days:
Your Guide to Keep Your Pets Safe, Active and Healthy this Holiday Season
By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™
After this stubborn pandemic robbed us of festivities last holiday season, I’m betting many of you plan to get the most out of this year’s holidays by hosting parties, taking vacations, even welcoming your B-list relatives to stay for a visit. Or perhaps, all of the above. Fortunately, 2020 is in the rearview mirror. But as we close out 2021, we need to also not forget about the P factor…that stands for our pets.
Our cats, dogs, and other pets have been there for us during all those ZOOM calls and long nights on the couch binge watching the latest Netflix series. They’ve kept us smiling and laughing through the far-too-many months we were not safely able to hug and hang out with cherished family and friends.
Holidays, even in pre-pandemic times, can be downright stressful, even scary to some pets. Some pets even develop a case of the holiday blues. From their perspective, the holidays are doggone disruptive. Strangers enter the home. Countertops are adorned with far-too-many tempting treats. Shiny, breakable ornaments are begging to be swatted. The daily household routine gets upended with litter boxes forgotten to be scooped and dog walks shortened or cancelled.
What does your pet really want this holiday season? Predictability and feelings of being loved and kept safe. If pets could write to Santa Paws, the following would make their wish list:
RECOGNIZE AND ADDRESS STRESS EARLY
Uncertainty and disruptions in household routines can take emotional and physical tolls on some pets and make them feel no so jolly. Consult your veterinarian if you pet’s appetite is waning or if he is suddenly yawning a lot, lip licking, becoming a major yapper or cowering or hiding when you call him. Also report if he is suddenly shredding or scratching your sofa pillows, sticking to you like a shadow, piddling on the rug or bypassing the litter box after years of stellar potty habits.
In addition to these behaviors, your pet may react to the stress by licking or biting his skin or nibbling paw pads until they are red and sore. Your veterinarian may recommend treating the skin to prevent infections with topical sprays and creams. The ZYMOX brand of skin topicals can help to calm the skin. In many cases they can break the cycle of licking/chewing and skin destruction.
POWER WALK WITH YOUR POOCH
By sticking to a daily brisk walk or run with your dog each day, you offer a healthy outlet to unleash your dog’s pent-up energy and anxiety caused by holiday guests and indoor decorations. Physical exercise also helps you stave off some of the holiday stress. Use the walk to mentally map out your holiday gift list or holiday dinner game plan – or as a good excuse to escape irritating or demanding relatives who are visiting.
BRING OUT THE KITTEN IN YOUR CAT
Treat your cat to more playtime by maybe teaching him a new trick using clicker training. Or mix up mealtime by putting a meal or healthy cat treats inside food puzzles or lick-it mats to bring out your cat’s inner hunter. Offer a kicker toy filled with organic catnip for your cat to punch and wrestle. Games can build confidence, boost your friendship bond and provide mental and physical stimulation for your pets.
KNOW AND RESPECT YOUR PET’S PREFERENCES WHEN TRAVELING
If you plan to travel, book a professional pet sitter or pet boarding facility now as appointments fill up fast at this time of year. If you have cats and dogs, especially canines who are shy, quiet or get easily intimidated by the presence of other dogs or loud barking, opt to hire a pet sitter to care for them while you are away from the home. If your dog is young, social and loves to play – or tends to act up when there is a change in household routine – consider boarding him at a reputable pet boarding facility or treat him to doggy day care.
CREATE VISITOR-FREE ZONES
When out-of-town friends or relatives stay for visits, make sure your pet has a place to go to nap, play or recharge without any interruption from these “strangers.” Make sure there is comfy bedding, keep-busy toys and maybe, even a sound machine to distort the holiday cheer coming from the crowded living room. Remember, we can’t pick our relatives, but we can bring out the best in our ever-loyal pets.
OPT FOR PET-SAFE DECORATIONS
Prevent singed whiskers and burned paws by using flameless candles and battery-operated holiday lighting. Take a pass on liquid potpourri that can cause mouth burns. Go with an artificial tree to curb the beckoning great outdoor scent found in a Douglas fir and adorn the tree with unbreakable ornaments. Skip the tinsel – even a slight movement of this shiny strand can be too irresistible to your curious canine. You don’t want to spend Christmas at the pet emergency hospital as veterinarians perform abdominal surgery to remove swallowed tinsel.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE BUBBLY
Don’t leave glasses of wine or champagne or other alcoholic drink unattended as even a small amount of alcohol lapped up by a cat or dog unattended as alcohol can be toxic. Ethanol poisoning can impact the pet’s central nervous system and even cause the pet to collapse into a coma.
STASH THE SWEETS AND UNBAKED BREAD
Chocolate, artificial sweeteners and unbaked dough are three no-no’s to pets any time of the year. So, make sure that the kitchen is off-limits to your pet while you make your world-famous holiday cookies containing chocolate due to the theobromine. Keep pets from holiday treats containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener, that can cause seizures, even liver failure in some pets. Be aware that dogs who eat unbaked dough can suffer bloat and alcohol poisoning due to the release of carbon dioxide and ethanol.
RESIST TREATING YOUR PET TO HOLIDAY PLATE OF GOODIES
Holiday foods can be so tasty and tempting to your four-legged friend. If you can’t resist those begging eyes, offer a piece of white turkey meat rinsed to remove any spices and seasonings. Turkey contains the amino acid, tryptophan, which has a calming effect on people and pets. Topping the no-no holiday treat list for pets are turkey skin, pumpkin pie or grapes (loaded with sugar), gravy and stuffing (packed with fat and salt that can cause pancreatitis) and onions that can cause anemia.
Finally, give your pet the most precious of all holiday gifts – the gift of you. Each day, calmly call your cat or dog over and cuddle with him on the sofa for five or ten minutes. Don’t say a word – just enjoy being in the moment with your four-legged pal. You will be amazed how this daily ritual will help you and your pet survive, perhaps even thrive, this holiday season.
Arden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.