It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are a beautiful season full of love, laughter, food, and fun. It’s the time of year to gather together with friends and family and celebrate all the things there are to be thankful for.
It can also be a time with lots of travel and transitions, which might be hard on your four-legged family members. Whether you plan to travel with your pet, hire a pet-sitter, or find a place for them to stay, we’ve come up with some of our top tips to keep your pet safe this holiday season.
Here’s how to look after your furry companions as you host loved ones, travel, and get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season!
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Pet Safe Planning
No matter what your travel plans are for the holidays, it’s always a good idea to prepare for your pet’s happiness and safety well ahead of time. Does your pet struggle with social anxiety? Or separation anxiety? Is your pet up to date on vaccinations? Knowing your pet, and making preparations that best suit their needs, is the most important step.
An important part of planning is also knowing where to take your pet in case of an emergency. We recommend having your veterinarian’s phone number saved somewhere that’s easily accessible, or knowing where to find an emergency 24/7 veterinary clinic, whether it be near your home or your holiday destination.
It’s crucial that you update your pet’s identification before you travel, with or without them. Make sure your pet has tags with your current contact information. If your pet gets loose or lost during travel, or on the pet-sitter’s watch, it’s reassuring to know they have proper identification. If someone finds them, he or she can help your pet find their way home.
As we eat all of our delicious holiday food, you (or your company) might be tempted to share with four legged family members. But this can be hazardous to your pets for a variety of reasons. It’s best to make or buy special holiday treats formulated just for animals. After all, they deserve a little special treatment, too!
Remember, chocolate and sweets can be toxic to dogs, and artificial sweetener found in baked goods has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs. It’s safer to keep all sweet, rich desserts away from your pets.
There’s usually lots of turkey around the holidays, too, and it might seem harmless to feed some leftover scraps to your dog. But turkey and turkey skin can actually cause pancreatitis, a very serious and life-threatening condition.
Ultimately, there are many “people food” items that just aren’t good for our furry friends. Gravy, meat fat, onions, raisins, and many other things that are commonly found in our holiday dishes are toxic to animals, or difficult to digest. It’s always safer to prepare or buy holiday treats for your pets so they can indulge, but aren’t put in danger of illness or death.
Pet Safe Decorations
Even well-behaved animals can get a little mischievous during the holidays. As you’re putting out your holiday decor, be cautious of what you leave in reach of your pets. It’s best to place any holiday decor that could be toxic, a choking hazard, or could cause an intestinal blockage, out of reach and away from your pets.
Sometimes it is recommended to put crushed aspirin or sugar into your Christmas tree water, but this can be very harmful to your pets. If you’re setting up a Christmas tree, it’s best to make sure the tree water has plain water, and try to keep homemade or breakable ornaments on higher boughs and out of reach.
Christmas tree lights or other electrical decor can also prove dangerous if your pup grows bored and chews on cords. Whenever you’re leaving your animal unattended or home alone, make sure all cords are unplugged and put away, in order to keep your pet safe.
It’s wonderful to be able to decorate, prepare delicious goodies, and welcome your loved ones into your home. But hosting can also bring complications for your pet.
Educate your guests ahead of their arrival, and make sure they know you have an animal in the house. Some people are uncomfortable with animals, especially larger animals, and 3 of every 10 people suffer from animal related allergies. It’s good practice to let everyone know what to expect when they arrive at your home.
Second, it is important to alert your guests to anything that could be important about your pet: stomach sensitivities, personality and mood, whether your animal is an inside or outside pet, etc. Keeping your company educated on how your pup needs to be treated and handled can avoid confusion, complications, and even pet emergencies.
Third, make sure your pet always has a “safe space” to get away from the crowd if they feel overwhelmed. Make sure you have a room or place that your furry friend can take a breather with food, water, a chew toy and a comfortable place to lie down. Make sure you explain the “safe space” to your guests, especially children, and ask them to respect your pet’s quiet time.
Pet Safe Boarding
The ideal place for your animal, if he or she is not traveling with you, is at home. Home is familiar and comfortable, and filled with all the things they know, including their bed, toys, dishes, food, smells, and sounds. Hiring a pet-sitter or responsible friend to stay in your home or drop in daily is a convenient and safe option to care for your pet.
When a pet-sitter is not an option (especially when others are traveling around the holidays), you may instead need to find a friendly place to board your pets. There are a few important things to do before you take your pet anywhere to stay:
- Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date, and check with your vet about helping your dog avoid canine flu, kennel cough, and fleas. Even in nice pet hotels or very clean boarding kennels, your pup can still pick up germs and pests.
- Check reviews and only leave your furry family somewhere you feel good about: don’t look past red flags!
If your dog is especially prone to anxiety, is excessively shy, or struggles to interact with other people or animals, you may want to consider other options before you board them.
If you’ve decided to take your pet on the road with you, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Interstate and international travel regulations may require your pet to have a health certificate from your veterinarian, even if you are traveling by car. Make sure you learn the requirements for the area you are visiting or passing through in order to comply with their regulations.
- Check in with your vet and make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations, and that your health certificate filled out correctly.
- Don’t forget to update your pup’s identification tags to include your current contact information.
- If you are traveling in the car, make sure you have a pet safe harness or carrier. On an airplane, bus, or train you may need to have your pet in a crate or carrier at all times. In their carrier, provide a soft blanket to sleep on, a toy to keep them occupied, and some water.
It may be a good idea to check with your veterinarian about the safety of air travel for your pet. Some animals are put at risk by traveling by airplane (for example, short nosed dogs). Your vet will be the best person to advise you on your pet’s ability to travel.
No matter where you’re going – or how you’re getting there – make sure to include your pal’s food and medications, copies of their medical records, and animal first aid supplies. Traveling can be stressful for your furry friend, so you may also want to bring along items that will create a sense of home: their toys, a favorite bed or blanket, and treats. A crate or carrier will also give your pet somewhere familiar and safe to sleep once you arrive at your destination.
We’re wishing you and your pets a joyful, safe and loving holiday season!