The holidays are fast approaching, which means hosting gatherings with friends and family, lots of food preparation, and a complete disruption of everything normal. Humans expect a little chaos this time of year. They’re generally able to manage the stress involved and adapt quickly to changes in routine.
For pets, however, the holidays can be overwhelming. The increased activity in their home, the tempting smells of food, and alterations in their schedules are a lot. Vets see a significant spike in emergency cases because pets eat foods they shouldn’t or act out due to overstimulation. Some of the most common ailments emergency vets see during this time of year include:
- digestive issues
- injuries from visiting pets
- ingestion of foods (or non-food items) they shouldn’t eat
Being proactive can help pet parents reduce the risk of an unexpected trip to the emergency vet. One way to prevent accidents and injuries is to spend a little time each day on training. With as little as 15 to 20 minutes a day, pet parents can keep pets calmer and safer, reducing the risk of potential holiday hazards. Here, they’ll learn some simple tricks that they can teach dogs and cats of all ages to keep them safe.
Foods and Ingredients Pets Shouldn't Consume
With the holidays comes a lot of delicious foods. While pet parents and guests may want to let the canines or felines enjoy a little treat, too, there are many items pets shouldn’t consume. Here are a few to avoid:
- Chicken or turkey with skin (or contains bones).
- Stuffing (onions, garlic, and other seasonings)
- Bread dough (especially if it contains yeast)
- Grapes and raisins
- Xylitol (sweetener in some types of peanut butter)
- Milk (and milk products)
In addition to these foods, the following holiday items can also pose potential dangers:
Certain types of plants, like poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly
- Salt dough ornaments
- Electrical cords (from a Christmas tree, lights, and other décor)
- Small toys
Simple Exercises for Holiday Pet Safety
There are a few simple exercises that pet parents can teach their dogs and cats that will help keep them safe during the holiday season (and beyond). One of the first things they should do, however, is to create a safe space.
A separate room or kennel away from the chaos and noise of a holiday get-together gives a pet a place they can go to calm down, rest, and relax. Pet parents should make it cozy with a pet bed, blanket, toys, and water. Pet parents should also make sure that guests (especially younger ones) know to leave pets alone in this area. They might also want to tell their guests not to feed the pets table scraps.
Training a pet to go to their safe place is fairly similar for dogs and cats. Pet parents should start by making the “place” enticing and reward any attention their pets give it with a treat and praise. They should work with the pet one paw at a time, rewarding the pet’s progress every step of the way. Once the pet goes consistently to their spot, pet parents can add the verbal cue “place”, “bed”, “crate”, or whatever cue works best for the pet.
While a pet parent might not mind a cat or dog on the sofa, other guests might. For dogs, a pet parent might find it beneficial to teach the canine to get up on it, too. They can use a treat or favorite toy (along with the command word) for encouragement. Then, they should use the same toy or treat with the word “down” to get the dog on the floor.
For cats, the process is fairly similar. Pet parents can encourage felines to get down by using a treat or toy. Alternatively, they can place the cat directly on the floor. Again, they should reward the cat and offer lots of praise. The command may also help keep cats off counters. Pet parents might also consider having a high place for cats to go, such as a cat tower.
With so much food, wrapping paper, and décor, curious pets may pick up something they shouldn’t and start chewing on it. Pet parents (or guests) can keep a cat or dog from eating the object with “drop it.” The command can help prevent ingesting an inedible object or potentially poisonous food. They can also avoid accidental bites.
Pet parents should work with their pets to encourage them to drop a toy while practicing the command. They can then reward the behavior with treats and praise.
Yes/No (Take It/Leave It)
Pet parents can also teach their pets to leave something alone (or take something offered) with a simple yes or no. To teach a cat or dog “yes,” a pet parent can place a treat in their fist and let their pet try to get it. After a moment, they can open their hand and say the command word.
To encourage a pet to leave something alone, a pet parent can start by placing a treat on the floor and holding their hand over it. They should keep the cat or dog from trying to get it while also using the command “no” or “leave it.” When the pet looks away, pet parents should offer another treat as a reward. They can use the one on the floor to continue practicing “yes” or “take it.”
What to Watch For in Pets
Even with preventative measures, accidents can still happen, especially if pets get left unmonitored for longer periods. The following can point to a potential problem:
- Destructive habits (chewing, scratching, etc.)
- Signs of stress or anxiety
- Pale gums
- Excessive panting
- Stomach bloating
Pet parents can help manage some symptoms with products at home. For instance, Doggystat is great for helping with diarrhea. Calming chews or a diffuser can help ease anxiety. If pet parents have any questions during the holidays, they can also always contact Fuzzy’s team of online vets for additional help.
Keep Cats and Dogs Safe During the Holidays
While the holidays may be chaotic for humans, it doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for pets, too. Creating a safe space and teaching a few simple commands can go a long way in keeping them safe and avoiding unwanted trips to the emergency room. That way, everyone (humans and pets alike) can enjoy the festivities.
For additional tips, Fuzzy’s online vets are available 24/7, even during the holidays. Pet parents can sign up to become Fuzzy members today and start receiving advice right away. They also get access to a wide range of pet products, including flea and tick preventatives, calming chews, digestive health medications, and more. Interested pet parents can visit Fuzzy to learn more.