Holiday meals and presents are wonderful traditions that warm our hearts and hold fond memories for years to come! As we enjoy this season of celebration and gift giving here are some tips for making this season even more enjoyable and avoiding some pitfalls that can cause stress or illness in your pets. Food changes, household changes, and routine changes can all contribute to anxiety and illness in our furry family members, but there are things we can do to minimize the disturbance and disruption.
Remember that treats are marketed to humans even though they are to be given to animals. This is an important piece of information because diet changes, even in the form of a treat or table food, can be very hard on pets. They can develop gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or vomiting. In some cases only their appetite is adversely affected due to the discomfort. Sticking to more bland treats will still make your furry friend happy, but will not cause stomach upset. Avoid the spicy, many added flavors, or fatty treats that can so often cause illness. A small piece of turkey or other meat without skin or bones is a fine treat on the day of a special meal. Remember that your pet should be getting a taste rather than a meal when being given the treat of table food on special occasions. Give a very small amount and avoid dairy or fatty items. Some foods should be avoided completely due to their potential toxicity. Among these are onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, bones of any kind, and fatty foods.
Decorations can be a threat to pets as well. Cats can climb the Christmas tree or ingest the tinsel or other stringy decorations leading to surgery and emergency hospitals being a part of the holiday memory. Dogs can eat the chocolate candy present or ingest the toys left out resulting in an emergency visit of their own. Look around your house and think of the age and inclinations of the pets that are present. Remove any possible threat to them. Think outside the box! Our pets can be unpredictable. Put up cages or playpens to restrict access to items that are a concern. Keep Poinsettias out or reach if they are part of the holiday decorations. Keep puppies away from electric cords that (for some reason) they may decide to chew upon.
With the holidays come welcome guests as well as children coming back from college and, in some cases, their pets. Disruptions in homes are felt by pets, and these changes can be stressful. Make sure to provide an area where your pet can “get away from it all.” They can adjust to visiting people, excited children, and visiting pets, but sometimes they need a quiet place to relax after “entertaining” for a while. In some cases the changes are overwhelming, and we need to help a pet adjust to them with supplements or medications while the household changes are occurring. We have options to make the changes smoother or less stressful on everyone, because when our beloved pets are not themselves, this affects us also. Please let us know if you need help preparing for a visit from others or when going to visit others. We can suggest things that can really change the dynamic from anxiety to fun for all involved.
We wish you the most enjoyable holiday ever! Enjoy family and friends and delicious food! Let your animals be a part of it as seems best to you. Remember that they need you to take care of them and make the best decisions on their behalf. And if you run into trouble or need some advice, remember that we are here to help! Stop by our office today to pick up stocking stuffers of treats for 10% off to make your pet’s holiday merry and bright!
Dr. Lisa Gibson