Some humans may think it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but their pets might not love the holidays as much as they do. For one thing, it probably throws off their normal schedule of sleeping 20 hours a day. Plus, there’s all this weird stuff hanging around the house that they’re not allowed to play with — not to mention the new people in their house, which might make them anxious.
But in addition to throwing off their normal routine of naps and snacks, the holidays also come with additional risks for pets. “While the holidays are a time for celebrating, it’s important to prioritise our pet’s health and safety by keeping potentially dangerous decorations and foods behind closed doors,” Dr. Tina Wismer, DVM, senior director of toxicology for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre tells Lifehacker.
Here are some tips from Wismer for keeping your pets safe and sound over the next few weeks.
Holiday gatherings almost certainly mean there will be food around. Pets may see it and think it’s their lucky day, but as the humans in the situation, we have to help them avoid temptation. “Make sure to keep your pets away from the buffet table and unattended plates of food and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans,” says Wismer.
And while you’re at it, tell your holiday guests not to feed your dog (or any other pet) off-limits human food. “Even one small tidbit from each party guest can quickly fill your dog’s belly and cause health problems,” she adds.
Some foods are worse for pets than others, and here are a few Wismer says to be sure to keep away from them:
Sweet, fatty, and spicy human foods
The decorations you put up in your home also pose a risk to your pet’s health. “Sparkly, light-catching tinsel is especially attractive to pets, but even just a small bit consumed can cause severe vomiting, dehydration or obstruction to your pet’s digestive tract, [and] possibly requiring surgery,” Wismer explains.
When it comes to live Christmas trees, there are a few things to remember. First, be sure to secure the tree tightly so it doesn’t fall and injure your pet. Second, cover the tree water dish with a skirt or towel. “Tree water can contain fertiliser and other chemicals that can be hazardous if consumed by pets,” Wismer notes.
Dealing with stress and anxiety
The holidays are a stressful time — including for pets. Everyone’s routines are thrown off, there’s commotion, and there may be more people in the house than usual. These are all things, Wismer says, that can make pets anxious. Plus, if you’re the one hosting these holiday gatherings, you have a million things going on — between shopping, cooking, cleaning, and entertaining guests — and you might not have the same amount of time to give your pet as you usually do.
“Keeping your routine as consistent as possible can help,” Wismer says. “And even amidst the busy holiday season, don’t forget to keep your pets busy and happy with exercise, playtime, interactive games or puzzle toys.”