Holiday season is upon us—and most pet owners know the drill for keeping their dogs, cats and other companion animals safe and happy during this festive, busy season.
But for the first-time pet owners out there, or just for anyone who doesn’t mind a little reminding (and your pets will thank you!), Zootoo checked in with the Humane Society of the United States for a refresher course on simple, useful tips for enjoying the holidays with your pets in style.
1. Don’t necessarily share all your holiday treats with your pets. In fact, Betsy McFarland, of the HSUS’ companion animals section, strongly cautions against it.
“It’s tempting to give your pets table scraps, but you should be careful about what your pets are being handed, especially if you have guests over who might be slipping them things,” McFarland said. “There are various things that could upset their systems.”
Chocolate is an obvious no-no—McFarland says her two dogs recently got into a closed-off room and had a feast on some chocolate, resulting in a late-night emergency vet visit. But turkey and chicken should be inspected before pets get into it, especially because turkey and chicken bones can splinter and be dangerous, causing pets to choke or experience digestive problems.
2. Pet-proof your tree. If you celebrate Christmas and decorate a Christmas tree or the house, you might also want to think twice about how easily your pets could access potentially enticing items, like dangling tinsel, ribbons, wrapping paper or flashy ornaments.
These can all appear as very tempting chew toys to curious pets, the HSUS says, but may ultimately damage their digestive systems and result in a play session that doesn’t end on a very high note.
3. Look out for the greenery. Some holiday plants, like mistletoe and polly berries, should also be kept out of reach of pets, McFarland says.
“Just place these items in areas where you know your pet won’t be able to get them, and where you won’t have to worry about the possibility of them doing so,” she said.
4. Avoid Jack Frost. If you don’t celebrate Christmas and this week tends to be a fairly quiet one for you, pet owners who live in colder climates should all be tuned in to the risks this can present for dogs and outdoor cats.
Dogs going for walks on freshly shoveled sidewalks, roads or driveways might be in for an unpleasant surprise if they find that the smooth snow has been replaced by salt, which can cause pain when wedged into their paws.
5. Try pet-friendly winter accessories. If you have your own driveway, you can purchase pet-friendly salt at major pet stores—but otherwise you won’t be able to help control the situation as much.
If you dog will tolerate them, doggie boots are one option to help avoid some surprised yelps along a walk. But there are simpler measures one can take, as well, like washing dogs paws off with warm water after they return from a walk—and this reporter has found that putting a little bit of Vaseline on the paw pads helps them from becoming too dry and cracked.
6. Keep an eye on your dogs’ paws—not Santa Paws! Owners could also snip the fur of their dogs paws fairly close to the base, so the salt doesn’t get caught in it.
“It’s helpful just to be more mindful of dogs’ paws this time of the year because even if the salt doesn’t appear to bother them, they could come back inside and start licking them and that could cause some irritation, and the chemicals aren’t good for them to ingest,” McFarland says.
Pets should also be kept away from antifreeze, which can prove deadly, even in small amounts, New York City’s Animal Care and Control cautions. It also recommends that people remain mindful of the cold, aware that pets can become hypothermic and ten to be “much safer and happier indoors,” according to a media release. Pets should also never be kept alone in cars when it’s cold out, as cars can then act as a refrigerator.