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Pets and the Holidays

The holidays are upon us – time with family and friends, times of giving and cozy fires, times of cooking and shopping, times of rushing, anxiety, tension and stress. For us and our pets.

Though not many of our pets actually have to brave the shopping malls with us, they are there when we bring home bags from that mall.

They are there when we worry over whether our mother-in-law will like what we bought her, when we wonder if we’ll ever get Chanukkah cards sent.

And our pets are there when we leave the Christmas gift wrap and ribbon out on the table, bring in a tree and decorate it with lights and tinsel.

Try to take some time to relax with your dog or cat during this holiday season, it will help your stress level as well as theirs.

To help your pets stay healthy and happy this month, here are some things to keep in mind as you go about your holiday activities.


Rule of Thumb – If it’s not good for you to eat or for your stomach, keep it out of reach of your cat or dog. It won’t be good for them either. That includes ornaments, ribbons, tinsel, pine needles. If you’re not eating the mistletoe, please make sure Fido or Kitty can’t accidentally snack on it when you’re not looking.

Some Specifics (from the AAHA website

Electrical cords:

Holiday lights mean more electrical cords for kittens and puppies to chew. Be sure you have cords secured and out of the way.


Lighted candles should never be left unattended. That is even more important if left at kitty’s eye level or within puppy’s chewing zone. An exuberant tail or a swat of a paw can easily upset lighted candles with hot wax. Anchor candles securely and away from curious faces and feet.

Holiday plants:

Holly and mistletoe are extremely poisonous when eaten, as are lilies. The lovely poinsettia is not poisonous, but its milky white sap and leaves can certainly cause gastric distress. The best approach is to keep holiday plants out of your pets’ reach.

Holiday tree:

Make sure your tree is well secured. If you have a tree-climbing cat or a large dog with a happy tail, anchor the top of the tree to the wall or ceiling using strong cord or rope.

Clean up dropped tree needles frequently, ingested pine needles can cause intestinal problems. Also, preservatives often used in the water in a tree stand can cause gastric upsets, so be sure it is inaccessible or not used. And it’s important to avoid aspirin additives in the tree water.


Sharp or breakable ornaments, dreidels and even aluminum foil should be kept out of reach. String objects, especially tinsel and ribbons should be kept away from pets. That can be difficult during present opening times, but these things are as hard on your pets’ digestive systems as they would be on ours if we ate tinsel, string or ribbon.


Please refrain from giving cooked bones to your pets, even if they beg… Cooked bones can splinter while being chewed. For healthier alternatives to cooked bones, please see our previous posts on bones.
Why not cooked bones?, Are raw bones ok for my pet? and Feeding raw bones in multiple dog households.

Stress and company:

With everyone coming and going, watch out for open doors and sneaky pets.

Make sure your pets have updated collars and tags on in case of escape. A microchip and two forms of ID on each pet will help if your pet escapes.

Ask guests to keep an eye out for pets under foot and remind them that sometimes your normally friendly dog or cat may be less than willing to deal with enthusiastic children and rooms full of unfamiliar people.

Provide a special quiet place with a blanket and fresh water for your pets to retreat to when the festivities get too stressful.


Lesser Known Holiday Pet Safety Tips:

Please do not allow guests to feed your pets human food. There are many holiday foods, including gravies, chocolate and alcohol, that can cause mild to severe illness in your pet. Sometimes the food is fine, but the stress of guests around can cause a digestive problem. It’s best to keep your pet’s diet as consistent as possible.

Reduce stress by keeping meals and exercise on a regular schedule. When pets are stressed by holiday activity or during travel, they may require more water. Dogs typically pant more when they feel stressed. Keep fresh water available for them to drink.

Natural Products for Pet Stress:

There are many safe and natural stress relievers to choose from. If you have guests or will be gone a lot; if you are bringing your pets with you as you travel; or if you are stressed and you are concerned your pets may start to reflect your stress… Here are a few options we have available at our clinic:
(For people outside of the Seattle area, check with your local vet, natural pet store or health food store for these products. Or we can mail items to you – call the clinic for information on purchasing from us.)

  • HomeoPet® Anxiety, TFLN (thunder, fireworks or loud noises) or Travel Anxiety – Homeopathic drops that can be dosed either directly into the mouth, in water or put on a treat or on food. These are safe for both dogs and cats and can be used for general anxiety, travel anxiety or loud noises.
  • Composure Chews – Tasty treats for dogs and cats containing thiamine, L-Theanine and a Colostrum Calming Complex. They can be given frequently throughout the day and the dosage can be significantly increased during times of increased stress. These are recommended to be started several days in advance to build up in their system.
  • Harmonease® – Chewable tablets for dogs made of plant extracts shown to stop typical stress behaviors such as spinning, lick granuloma and cowering.
  • D.A.P. and Feliway® – Pheromone products for dogs and cats. These products reassure and calm your pets using familiar pheromones. They come in a spray, room diffuser or pet collar.
  • Thundershirt – According to some experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin, pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system of both people and animals. This product is a gentle, constant pressure “shirt” that wraps around your dog to reduce anxiety. This pressure has a dramatic calming effect for 80% of dogs.

Another natural option available in many good pet stores and most health food stores is Rescue Remedy, a Bach Flower Essence. It is a natural stress reliever that many people keep on hand at home and in travel kits. It can often help both people and animals recover from travel fatigue and stress. Put a few drops in the water bowl or portable water container. For very stressed pets, rub a drop on their ear or put a drop on the towel in their crate or carrier.

There are other quality flower essence brands your local stores may carry. Sam’s, a top quality pet store in Monroe, carries Pet Essences® flower essences for pets. Alaskan essences is another brand recommended by several highly respected dog trainers in the Seattle area.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic or inappropriate, call your veterinarian, veterinary emergency clinic, and/or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center‘s 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP.

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