Many pet owners travel during the holiday season, decorate their homes, or invite guests over to celebrate. Not only can these events cause your pet undue stress, but they also can expose them to unforeseen holiday dangers and land them in the veterinary emergency hospital. Columbia Pike Animal Hospital has a few tips to help you safeguard your pet from a holiday disaster.

#1: Plan ahead for holiday pet travel

If you’re traveling with your pets, consider what could happen if they need medical attention on the road. Familiarize yourself with veterinarians and emergency services near your destination, and keep printed or digital copies of your pet’s important medical records with you. You also will need a health certificate for your pet if you’re crossing state lines. Your veterinarian can provide the certificate by examining your pet within 10 days of your departure.

#2: Keep holiday pet routines consistent

Pets thrive on stability and routine, and travel, guests, or kids home from college can easily cause them stress. Keep your pet’s daily routine consistent by feeding them, walking them, and having them go to bed at the same times each day. Keep cat litter boxes and pet food and water bowls in familiar locations, because moving them can cause further distress.

#3: Provide your pet a safe, quiet space

If you’re hosting a party or other gathering, ensure you set aside a safe, quiet space for stressed-out pets to relax and recharge. Highly stressed pets should be confined to a crate or small room to ensure everyone’s safety, while social pets can be allowed to mingle and retreat to their own space when they’ve had enough. Furnish their space with a comfortable bed and familiar toys, and consider playing calming music or diffusing calming pheromones nearby. If your pet has severe anxiety, have them stay with a friend for the evening or ask your veterinarian about calming medications, supplements, and other anti-anxiety products.

#4: Share holiday foods with humans only

Keep pets away from the kitchen and dining areas until your holiday meal is finished, and tell your guests not to share food with roaming pets. Holiday foods may contain toxic ingredients, excess fat, or bones that can obstruct your pet’s stomach. The top concerns include:

  • Toxic holiday foods — Chocolate, xylitol (an artificial sweetener), grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, and yeast-containing dough can poison your pet, each with different consequences. If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic food, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline for immediate guidance, because quick action can help minimize organ damage and improve your pet’s outcome.
  • Fatty holiday foods — Excess fat can irritate your pet’s digestive system and overwhelm their pancreas, which secretes enzymes to help break down foods. Pancreatitis is a painful condition that causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy, and most pets are hospitalized for several days to recover.
  • Poultry and ham bones — Cooked bones can splinter and damage your pet’s stomach or intestines. Perforated intestines leak bacteria into your pet’s abdomen and bloodstream, which can quickly become life-threatening.

#5: Decorate with pets in mind

Pets are curious, and they love to investigate fun new things in their environment. Shattered ornaments, broken snow globes, and toppled candles may create a big, inconvenient mess, but they also can be dangerous for your pet. Take these steps to reduce decoration mishaps:

  • Secure the Christmas tree to something sturdy to protect against jumping and happy tails.
  • Cover the tree basin to prevent pets from drinking stagnant, chemical-laced water.
  • Use lightweight, unbreakable ornaments and place them on the top tree half, out of your pet’s reach.
  • Supervise pets and unplug lights when you aren’t using them to prevent shocks or burns from live wires.
  • Use flameless candles or extinguish candle flames whenever you leave the room.
  • Keep snow globes away from ledges where they could fall and break, as they contain poisonous ethylene glycol (i.e., antifreeze).
  • Avoid tinsel, ribbons, or string in decorations or gift wrapping. Cats who ingest these items may need surgery for intestinal obstructions.

#6: Microchip your pet

Pets can become lost if they panic and run away during a party, if guests leave a door open, or if they get separated from you during travel. Collars with ID tags can help a good Samaritan return your lost pet, but only if they are wearing the collar when they’re found. Microchipping is a permanent solution to help authorities identify your pet and greatly increase your chances of seeing them again. Your veterinarian can perform this simple procedure during a quick, outpatient visit.

Some mischievous pets have a talent for getting into trouble at the worst times, but the Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team is available for emergencies 24 hours a day year-round. Contact our hospital or bring your pet in right away If they ingest a toxin, swipe the holiday ham, or have another holiday mishap.