Pet Tips for the Holidays

Vet Before You Pet!

With Halloween officially kicking-off the holiday season, we at the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) thought we’d compile a list of common issues pet owners (and potential pet owners) face during the holiday season.

If You’re Thinking of Giving A Pet As a Gift…


Don’t do it. It’s rarely a good idea to give pets as surprise gifts. Handing someone that much responsibility at once, while depriving them of the opportunity to pick a pet that suits their personality or taste, or the choice of even becoming a pet owner, isn’t a gift that will be well received. If someone isn’t prepared to be a pet owner, this well-intentioned gift is more likely to end up at a shelter than pictured in next year’s holiday cards.

There is an exception, however, if a parent decides to give a pet as a gift to their child, since the parent is usually prepared to shoulder most of the responsibility in lieu of the child. But there are still a few things to consider: the holidays can be stressful to an animal so it might not be best to bring them home during celebratory times, like a gift exchange. Instead, Lori Teller, DVM, of Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston, suggests to instead, wrap a box that contains some of the appropriate supplies like food water bowls, collar/leash, bed, toys. “They’ll be very excited to know they are getting a puppy or kitten,” said Dr. Teller. “Then you can let them know the date/time you will be picking up the animal or visiting a shelter to pick one out. It’s a win-win for everyone that way, and it’s in the best interest of the animal.”

If You’re Thinking of Getting Yourself A Pet…

Vet Before You Pet. When it comes to picking out a pet, it’s best to “vet” this decision with a veterinarian first. A veterinarian can steer you toward a pet that will suit your lifestyle. They can also help you prepare to ask the right questions of the breeder/shelter/rescue group that will help you obtain your pet.

For more information, see these informational brochures here: https://ebusiness.avma.org/EBusiness50/ProductCatalog/productcategory.aspx?ID=132 created by the American Veterinary Medical Association, including how to select the right dog or cat for your lifestyle.

Another useful resource for pet selection can be found here: http://animalmedical.us/pet_selector/index.html.

If You Already Own A Pet…

Remember pet safety this holiday season. Consider this list of safety recommendations:

Don’t take your pet trick or treating. They could get stepped on, spooked—which could lead to biting—or loose. But if you do take your pet trick or treating, this animal should be very accustomed to both adults and children and not be bothered by people dressed in strange costumes, loud noises or sudden movement. Any costume you dress them up in should also allow for the full range of motion and use of all the senses. It should also not restrict circulation or have any toxic paints or dyes or small pieces that could be choking hazards. Pets should also be securely leashed at all times on a short, and not expandable, leash. They should also have collars, tags and microchips incase they get lost. 

It might be a good idea to keep your craved pumpkins outside if they contain a candle. They can be turned over that could results in burns or fires. This is true of all candles and its best not to have them around pets in general. Also, scented candles can contain liquid that can be very toxic if drank. 

Keep candy out of your pet’s reach. Chocolate, caffeine, raisins, grapes or any candy containing xylitol are poisonous to pets and candy wrappers can cause intestinal blockages. What do you do if your pet does ingest something poisonous? Call your veterinarian, the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1/888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Hotline at 1/800-213-6680.
 
Keep decorations out of reach. Tinsel, ribbons and ornaments can be disastrous to a pet’s digestive system. Also remember that potpourri, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous to both pets and people, though the toxicity of poinsettias has been slightly exaggerated in recent years. Christmas lights and extension cords should also be concealed so they’re not chewed and make sure any winter chemicals such as antifreeze (sometimes found in snow globes) are inaccessible to pets.

Don’t let pets get a hold of bread dough or alcohol. If a pet eats bread dough, it can ferment in their stomach, which isn’t pretty. Alcoholic beverages are also not good for your pet so keep them away from celebratory drinks such as eggnog, beer, cider and champagne.

Don’t let pets drink the Christmas tree water. It can be filled with bacteria, preservatives and fertilizers that can cause stomach upset. Also don’t let your pet ingest pine needles (which can puncture intestines) and make sure to anchor your Christmas tree. Dogs can easily topple them and curious cats might try and climb them, which can bring the whole thing down.

If you have a holiday party, put your pet in a separate room. When gatherings have multiple guests, it’s best to put your pet safely away so that they can’t get stepped out, or run out the front door when guests enter. It’s also a good idea to make sure their tags are displayed and microchip information up-to-date, incase they somehow escape.

For more information on pet safety, see this AVMA brochure: https://ebusiness.avma.org/EBusiness50/files/productdownloads/HouseholdHazards-En.pdf.

If You’d Like to Travel With Your Pet…

If you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile with your pet this holiday season, see a previous TVMA press release about this topic here: https://secure.tvma.org/Media_Room/pr_10_holiday_pet_travel_tips.phtml

About TVMA
Founded in 1903, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association is a professional association composed of more than 3,700 veterinarians committed to protecting public health, promoting high educational, ethical and moral standards within the veterinary profession, and educating the public about animal health and its relationship to human health. For more information, call 512/452-4224 or visit www.tvma.org.