Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Having Safe and Happy Holidays

The holidays are a super exciting time of year with visitors, traveling, lots of food preparation, and decorations and packages around the house.  Although I do enjoy the change of pace, it can all be a little overwhelming for me and other pets. 

During the holidays, it is important to consider keeping your pet safe and stress free which includes keeping them on a normal diet, managing your pets with children, using crates and supervision, giving extra chew toys and mental toys, and planning to keep us well exercised.

DIET The holidays are all about humans overindulging, but that is not the safest thing for your pets.  It's a good idea to keep your pets on their normal diet to avoid stomach upset.  Even small amounts of fatty turkey skin can mean trouble.  And, I'm sure that last thing anyone wants to deal with is doggie gastric issues. But it's also not a good idea to give us too many holiday goodies because they can increase a dog's risk of developing pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas caused by fatty foods.  Best to play it safe and err on the side of moderation.  Here's a helpful article by Dr. Nancy Kay on how to avoid canine pancreatitis.

PET/CHILD HOLIDAY SAFETY It goes without saying that the holidays are a special time for children.  When we have children visitors in our house or if we go to someone's house that has kids, Jenn or another adult are always watching, making sure that I'm not too stressed, and that the child is respecting my space.  It is very important for adults and children to recognize the signs of stress in pets to keep everyone safe.  Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and founder of Family Paws Parent Education Jen Shryock has done a video on pet/child holiday safety with some great basics about reading pet body language.  You can watch it here:

CONTAINMENT/SUPERVISION Sometimes, with all the hustle and bustle of people coming and going from your home, your pet just wants a quiet place to chill out.  Lots of visitors are exciting, but they can also make us anxious, so being able to have a place in the house to go can be very helpful for pets to have access to.  This could be a calm place in the house, with a dog bed or crate, chew toys, etc.   Here's Jet chilling out in a quiet spot. 
If you are traveling over the holidays, be sure to take sturdy crates with you so your dog can travel in safety in your vehicle and so that you will have a way to contain them wherever you are visiting. Crates also serve as a quiet place for your pet to retreat to if they want some alone time and keeps your pet out of harms way when you can't supervise them. There are lots of holiday hazards that puppies can get into so be careful and supervise, supervise, supervise.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL EXERCISE Tired dogs make the best holiday companions. Jenn knows there are nice walking trails nearby where we can go everyday and that we will be walking many miles. Try to keep up with your dog's exercise routines over the holidays so that your dog will be calmer and less anxious (and so will you). Additional exercise will keep down stress levels. Keep chews and mental activity toys around so you can give your dog something to do when they need it.
THUNDERSHIRT Another great stress reducer is the Thundershirt, which is now available for cats too.  The Thundershirt can help alleviate the anxieties of the holidays including car anxiety and is very snazzy too.  Here's Jenn's travel training video about how to use the Thundershirt to reduce car anxiety:
And lastly and most importantly, don't forget to have your pet's ID tags on wherever you go. I'm looking forward to all the excitement of the holidays! For more holiday pet safety tips click here
and here's a list of tips for "winterizing" your pet from Dr. Nancy Kay.   Happy Holidays!