Is that a sleigh bell’s jingle, or simply your pet scratching an itch? If you’re worried about your dog or cat ruining the holiday magic this season, you can keep your pet out of harm’s way without making them miss all the fun. Check out Palm City Animal Medical Center’s helpful guide for a pet-safe holiday season. 

Plan for everything—and expect anything—with pets

During this hopeful and wish-filled season, you must be practical and realistic about potential pet dangers. Preparation and anticipation can eliminate many hazards, so take the following preventive measures:

  • Pet-proof your home—especially if this is your pet’s first holiday experience. 
  • Ensure your pet wears a well-fitting collar and current identification at all times.
  • Have your pet microchipped, or confirm that their current microchip is registered with up-to-date contact information.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers posted on your fridge, including Palm City Animal Medical Center, the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Hotline, and our after-hours emergency line (772-283-0920).
  • Refill your pet’s prescriptions, including anti-anxiety medication and special diet foods, so you don’t run out during holiday travel or while we are closed.

Manage your pet’s environment

Dogs and cats are opportunistic, so they’re not going to miss the chance to steal some holiday ham, or to dash out of the front door while you’re accepting deliveries. The best trained pets are still pets, so don’t rely on your dog or cat’s “good nature” or past history to keep them safe. Management is a simple and effective way to control your pet’s behavior by eliminating the opportunity for bad decision-making. Holiday-specific management strategies include:

  • Storing trash behind a barrier or closed door, to prevent dumpster diving
  • Keeping pets out of the kitchen, to prevent accidental food toxicity 
  • Confining your pet to a crate or small room during noisy or busy times
  • Protecting your pet from situations they find intimidating or stressful (e.g., strangers, fireworks, or children) by giving them a safe and quiet place to stay 

Keep those pet paws off your plate

You may not have willpower when it comes to second helpings, but you’ll need some to help you resist your pet’s begging eyes and pleading paw. If your pet will be joining you during the holiday meal, ask all your guests not to give them table food. Holiday dishes contain harmful ingredients that cause toxicity, pancreatitis, and severe injury to dogs and cats. Never feed your pet turkey bones, turkey skin or fat, ham, gravy, casseroles (e.g., dishes containing dairy, onion, garlic, or leeks), nuts, raisins, grapes, nuts, chocolate, or sugar-free desserts that may contain xylitol.

If you’re powerless to your pet’s persuasion, bake some pet-safe treats from holiday ingredients. Or, give your pet small bites of skinless and boneless turkey or plain (i.e., unseasoned) sweet potato, carrots, green beans, apples, or pumpkin, which are all pet-safe.

Decorate without endangering your pet

Setting the holiday mood usually involves candlelight, greenery, twinkling bulbs, and an army of figurines and ornaments. Unfortunately for curious pets, these items are often mistaken for food or toys, and result in a surprise holiday trip to Palm City Animal Medical Center

For pets who may love your decorating a bit too much, substitute some pet-safe items, including:

  • Non-toxic or artificial plants — Real mistletoe, holly, and other holiday favorites are dangerous when eaten by pets.
  • Flameless candles — Nothing lights up your holiday like a small fire started by your pet.
  • Battery operated lights — Plug-in lights can deliver a powerful shock when chewed. Battery lights are still dangerous, but have less risk. Hang them high and out of reach.
  • Artificial tree — Pets like to drink water from real trees, which can harbor bacteria and fertilizer.
  • Fresh scents — Essential oils and liquid potpourri are dangerous for cats and birds. Consider simmering cinnamon sticks or orange peels for a safer scent. Better yet, bake cookies or pet treats!

Schedule pet-friendly activities and regular exercise

If your pet is more of a wallflower than a party animal, ensure you include some quieter pet-friendly activities during the holiday hustle and bustle. Regular physical and mental exercise can help your pet burn extra energy, relieve stress, and prevent boredom. Some fun ideas include:

  • Movie night — Stay in and cuddle on the couch with some plain popcorn and a good movie. Pick one starring dogs or cats for a guaranteed two paws up rating!
  • Holiday walks — Explore your neighborhood or a local light display to admire the holiday decorations. Ensure your dog is wearing current identification and a reflective leash or collar for visibility.
  • Family game night — While you play a board game, let your pet try their paw or nose at a puzzle toy made for dogs or cats

Know before you go—traveling with pets

Are you hitting the road, or taking to the sky, with your pet this holiday season? Traveling with pets can be a breeze—with a little planning, of course. Before you go, acclimate your pet to their crate, carrier, or seat belt using praise and positive reinforcement. Call ahead to confirm your pet-friendly reservations, and ensure your airline and hotels haven’t changed their policies. Ensure a safe, stress-free experience by packing vaccine records, extra food, medication, and cleaning supplies.

The best gift for your pet is providing safe ways to include them in your festivities. Palm City Animal Medical Center wishes you a merry and bright holiday season—but, if things don’t go according to plan, don’t hesitate to contact us. For after-hours assistance, call our emergency helpline: 772-283-0920.