The holiday season is a wonderful time to create special memories with family members, including your beloved pets.
However, dogs and cats can find the holidays particularly stressful if pet parents don’t properly plan for travel or consider the numerous potential hazards. We have some tips to help you make the most of the holidays with your pets, including the fun of gift-giving!
Plan for Travel
Be sure and talk with your veterinarian about your pet's special travel needs and what he or she recommends for traveling. Problems and potential injuries can easily be avoided with a little bit of homework and planning.
Documents to Have on Hand
In addition to packing your pet's food and medications, remember these other items should the need arise.
- Pets always need to have proper identification on them when traveling. This can be something as simple as an ID tag on his or her collar, but a more permanent solution would be the use of an implantable microchip.
- Make sure that you have copies of vaccination records and needed medications so that they are easily accessible during the trip.
- Many airlines require a health certificate for your pet, so do your homework. This document must be dated within 10 days of the start of your travels.
- Pack a list of important phone numbers like your current vet, a veterinary emergency hospital near your destination, and the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (888-426-4435, a fee may apply).
Traveling by Plane
If your holiday plans include air travel, good communication with the airline is a must to ensure that you follow the regulations regarding pets. Some common rules follow.
- Your four-legged friend needs to be over 8 weeks old and weaned for at least 5 days.
- Most airlines will require the previously mentioned health certificate.
- All airlines recommend arriving at the airport early to insure the smooth check-in of your pet.
- Kennels that will be checked into the cargo area must be non-collapsible, large enough to allow the pet to stand and have a leak-proof bottom covered with absorbent material.
Traveling by Car
While taking a pet in a vehicle may be less complex than air travel, owners need to consider the following to keep their pets happy and safe when traveling by car.
- Pets should be kept in carriers or cages during travel to avoid potential accidents if the pet gets "underfoot" of the driver. Be sure to place these clear from airbags.
- Plan rest stops and exercise times for your pets due to the longer time frames.
- Pets will travel better with small amounts of food and water in their system frequently rather than allowing the pet to eat his or her normal ration.
- Keep a jug of fresh water in the car to avoid times when reliable water sources may not be available.
- Never leave a pet alone in the car in any weather.
“Cats tend to handle it just fine if you opt to not take them along on your travels. We have a great boarding solution for cats at Bees Ferry Animal Hospital. Owners can even reserve an entire apartment for their feline friends over the holidays! ”
— Dr. Katherine Saenger, DVM, CVJ
Avoid Holiday Hazards
An emergency trip to the veterinary clinic is sure to spoil the holiday cheer. Avoid these common holiday hazards to keep the season from becoming not-so-happy for your pet and for you.
Chocolate & other sweets: It's safest to consider all chocolate off-limits for pets even though the toxicity can vary based on the type of chocolate, the size of your pet, and the amount they ate. In addition, an artificial sweetener often found in baked goods, candy, and chewing gum, xylitol, has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs.
Table scraps: Rich holiday foods can be hard for animals to digest and can also cause pancreatitis. In addition, many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets like onions, raisins, and grapes.
Wrapped food: Pets can smell food in wrapped presents a mile away. Do not leave these gifts unattended under the tree.
Christmas trees: In addition to tipping over the tree if a pet climbs on it, water in the tree stand can be a hazard. It can become stagnant, and the bacteria levels can be high enough to cause vomiting if pets drink it. In addition, common tree preservatives contain fertilizers that upset pets’ stomachs. It’s important to keep the water fresh or covered.
Ornaments & tinsel: Holiday decorations can be tempting for pets to eat. However, consuming them can cause intestinal blockages, sometimes requiring surgery. In addition, breakable ornaments or decorations can cause injuries.
Electric extension cords: As you are decorating, keep electric extension cords hidden underground or under throw rugs to keep pets safe. If a pet chews on these, they can get a serious shock and painful mouth burns. Rabbits absolutely love to chew on cords, but cats and dogs run a close second.
Hosting Parties & Visitors
Pets that are nervous around visitors: Pets often behave differently when there are added people in the house. Create a safe haven for him or her in another room or a crate with a favorite toy. If your pet is particularly upset by house guests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.
Guests with pets: If guests ask to bring their own pets and you don't know how the pets will get along, you should either politely decline their request or plan to spend some time acclimating the pets to each other. When guests do bring pets, it is very important to supervise the interactions, monitor for signs of a problem, and take action to avoid injuries to pets or people.
Watch the exits. Make sure you watch your pets closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, it would be easy for them to make a break for it while you are focused on other things.
Gift Ideas for Pets and Pet Parents
There are so many innovative gift ideas for the pets and pet parents in your life. We had fun compiling an initial list for your gift-giving needs!
Toys to keep pets active: Check out the HurriK9 ring launcher which is described as “the world’s coolest fetch toy for both you and your dog”. It flies up to 100 feet! hurrik9.com In addition, puzzle feeders and treat balls are always a great gift option.
Functional items that we love:
K&H Kitty Sill™ - This sits right on your window sill and is perfect for any cat that enjoys basking in the sun. khpet.com
SureFeed Pet Feeder - This product monitors when and how much a pet eats. Owners can show vets their pet’s feeding data to aid in diagnosis and monitor the effectiveness of treatments. surepetcare.com
AquaPurr - This product sits next to your sink and connects to your faucet. When your cat steps close, it activates a sensor that delivers fresh water every time. aquapurr.com
The staff at Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital wishes you and your pets a wonderful holiday season! If you have any questions about this article or are interested in our cat boarding, please contact our office.