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Holiday Advice from our Panel of Veterinarians

The holidays are upon us!

This year, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa all happen or begin between December 24 and 26 so there will be holiday cheer all the way into 2017.  With all the special foods, decorations, travel, visitors, stress and resulting confusion and hustle-bustle normally associated with the holidays, this is a good time to take a moment to consider the impact of the holidays on our fur babies so that we all have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Our Veterinarian Experts

Onpets asked veterinarians around the country to give us their best advice on everything from helping our animal companions deal with holiday stress to foods to avoid giving our fur babies.

Read on to see what they had to say.

Tinsel, tinsel everywhere!  And let’s not forget the tree itself!

  • cat with tinselDr. John Simon of Woodside Animal Clinic in Royal Oak, Michigan cautions that “because cats are so inquisitive they are more likely to get in trouble during the holiday season.  Cats like playing with ribbons, string and tinsel and in the process, may swallow something that can cause serious and life threatening problems. Another concern is the Christmas tree which the adventuresome cat may try to climb and, in the process, cause the tree to topple over, hurting the cat or others in the vicinity.  Attaching bells to the lower branches may serve as an early warning signal that a dangerous accident is about to occur.”
  • Dr. Caroline O’Sullivan of Holistic Veterinary Care and Acupuncture Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona says: “Beware of the cat that climbs the center of the Christmas tree. It is always easier for them to get in than it is for them to get out. No tinsel, ribbons, shoelaces or yarn for cats. Low hanging and glass ornaments may lead to no good.”
  • Dr. Simon also cautions that “linear foreign bodies like tinsel, string or ribbons are just as dangerous for dogs even though most dogs are not as inquisitive about these things as cats.  So, keep such materials out of reach of both species and have a safer, happier holiday.”
  • Let’s not forget electrical cords: Dr. Simon advises that “electrical cords used to light Christmas tree and holiday decorations may also be a hazard if the pet decides to taste or chew the wire.   Mouth burns are terrible to treat and can even prove fatal.  So keep the cords hidden and out of sight for your curious fur babies.”

Help!  I’m stressed!!

  • cat hiding in treeDr. Sarah Daane-Froelich, of Ten Mile Holistic Veterinary Care in Casper, Wyoming told Onpets, “if you are going to be hosting a party, make sure your cat has a private, safe place to go to away from the noise and bustle of the party. Many cats are not social butterflies.
    • Do you have a room that you can close off away from your guests? Place favorite toys, some catnip, and a cat play gym there.
    • Is there a good spot for your cat to perch and look outside? Your cat will appreciate the quiet and solitude while you enjoy your guests.”
  • Dr. Julie Mayer, practicing and teaching in Illinois and Arizona, cautions that your fur babies can experience significant stress from exposure to company, strangers and children if you are hosting holiday parties or guests, OR if you go out of town and either board your pets or have someone come to your home to take care of them.  She says “their routines change during the holidays:
    • Kids come back from school and then they have to leave again and the pets may get depressed.
    • Friends and family members may be visiting for a while and staying.
    • dog in a boxSleep patterns may temporarily change in the pets.
    • They may be isolated to a room or a part of the house to keep them away from the guest and may consequently stop eating.
    • There may be different noises and smells which linger in the house.
    • There may be dog visitors who have to stay in their house and now they have to share their territory or again change their routine.
    • There are decorations and trees and lights that weren’t there before. I have a patient who won’t go into a room because the Christmas tree is there and it freaks him out!
    • Lastly, if the humans in the house have holiday stress then so will the pets….they pick up on our energy.”
  • Dr. Daane-Froelich agrees that stress is a holiday hazard for your fur babies. Just as your favorite feline may want to avoid the limelight during the holidays, so might your pup so Dr. Daane-Froelich has the following advice for you: “Dogs also may need a safe place to be during a party.
    • Before the party, ensure that your dog has a chance to go outside for exercise and potty.
    • Then find a safe, quiet room for your dog to stay in during the party. If he/she is a social critter they may enjoy a brief time out with your guests during the party but please supervise them.
    • Perhaps assign a family member to watch them for a 10-20 minute social time.
    • You want to avoid your well-meaning guests giving food treats that are not good for your pet.
    • You also want to ensure your pet does not push for attention from someone who is afraid of dogs.
    • Small dogs can easily be stepped on and injured during a party. Make sure your dog has toys, a comfortable bed, plenty of water and perhaps dog-centered music playing for their relaxation.”

 So, what can we do about the stress??

  • Dr. Mayer has some suggestions for us:
    • “There are Flower Essence formulas for anxiety and fear of both known things and change – especially schedule changes or boarding – as well as for depression.
    • There are essential oils for anxiety, fear, depression, and other emotional issues.  The oils can be put in diffusers throughout the house or on a bandana that the pet wears.
    • You may want to put on some calming music, especially if you must temporarily isolate your pets.
    • The pet guardians can locate a holistic veterinarian and a pet masseuse to help their fur babies deal with holiday stress.”
  • dogs in the snowDr. Karen Becker of Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, told Onpets that “the best gift you can give dogs this season is the gift of daily fun outside! Most people eat more and move less during this busy time of year. This means dogs spend most of their days lying around, bored, being a spectator as the fat-filled festivities take place inside. Making time to take your dog outside to move her body daily during the holidays means she gets to spend quality time with you and looks forward to something fun every day. Whether it’s a walk in the foods, an adventure-filled trip to the dog park or a run through the city park, getting outside daily is awesome for both you and your dog. Heart thumping, muscle building, fat burning, endorphin-releasing fun outside doesn’t cost a thing and is one of the healthiest gifts you can give your pooch (and is good for you, too!).” Now that is great stress-reduction advice for both of you!

Beautiful – and tasty – can also be Poisonous

  • “Poinsettia plants are poisonous if consumed”, says Dr. Simon, “and therefore do provide a very real Christmas hazard for both dogs and cats, so place the plants well out of reach of your curious pets.”
  • Dr. O’Sullivan added that “holiday plants, gifts, foods and chewing gum may be harmful to your dog (and your cat). Please keep this number on hand: Pet Poison Control 855-289-0358.”

 Holiday treats anyone?

  •  cat with a stockingDr. Ihor Basko, practicing in Hawaii, is doing a radio show on this topic on December 24 and invites the Onpets family to listen in from 11 a.m. to noon, Pacific Time at He gave us the following treat suggestions for your favorite feline and canine baby:
    • “A catnip mouse is OK, but may cause more rowdiness in the house.
    • Milk is OK if the cat is only eating dry food, but use 2 tablespoons of organic whole milk with a probiotic added.  The liquids and solids in milk are beneficial in small amounts.  Cats do not drink enough water, and if they eat dry food only that can contribute to kidney disease.  Giving milk will help improve hydration.
    • Fresh or organic dry catnip is also a good remedy for vomiting and/or upset stomach because it is an anti-spasmotic. Make a tea from it and give 1 teaspoon every 4 hours.
    • Raw hide chews have paid for many salaries and veterinary hospital expenses……at the expense of your pet.  A large raw or boiled bone is safer.
    • If you add raw clover or alfalfa sprouts to your pet’s food along with cooked vegetables, they will not have a need to chew on poisonous plants like poinsettias.  Growing a pot of oat or wheat grass in the home will give dogs and cats fresh greens on a daily basis.”
  • dog treatsDr. Simon agreed with Dr. Basko’s condemnation of rawhide chews: “I never recommend rawhide chew toys for pets during the holiday season or any other time. All too often these raw hide toys can harbor toxic chemicals used in their processing or may be a source dangerous bacteria.    It is very common for dogs or cats that are given a rawhide chew toy to develop diarrhea within 24 hours of consumption.”
  • Dr. O’Sullivan told Onpets that “boxes of chocolates and chocolate chip cookies should not go under a tree, or in a stocking, or on a low shelf, or in any other place we think are great hiding spots for gifts.”
  • Dr. Becker advised Onpets that pet parents with cats should “offer fresh treats instead of expensive, commercially available, highly processed, poor quality cat treats most people buy. Offer nibbles of fresh turkey or other meats (no sauces or seasonings added) to cats during the holidays instead. For many house pets this will be the only ‘human grade’ meat they’ll get all year (99% of cat food is made with rendered protein, not approved for human consumption).”
  • Dr. Beth Hischfeld told Onpets that pet parents should never give their fur babies cooked turkey bones (which can splinter), onions (which can cause a Heinz body anemia), fat-free or sugar-free foods that may include ingredients like Xylitol or dark or Baker’s chocolate which includes theophyllene, another substance which is harmful to our fur babies.
  • Dr. Simon concurred, saying “a small amount of turkey, cut off the bone, is perfectly OK to feed a cat.  However, never give the cat meat on the bone since cooked chicken and turkey bones can splinter if a cat tries to eat the bone and the sharp splinters can lodge in the intestine or even puncture it.” On the upside, Dr. Simon also says “I see no reason not to let a cat enjoy him or herself playing with a cat nip toy.  Also, some cats have no problem with drinking milk but with others it may cause diarrhea.  Test your cat’s tolerance to milk by providing limited access and see if it softens the stool.”
  • As Dr. O’Sullivan succinctly puts it, “Egg nog and cats do not mix.”  She also  stated that “giving the fat or skin from the holiday meal to your dog is never a good idea.”

Drunk pets are Pitiful, NOT funny

  • As stated by Dr. Simon, “alcohol in any form is not healthy to give puppies or adult dog.  Seeing your pet drunk may be entertaining but may lead to behavior that can be injurious.”

Don’t lose me…or run over me!!

  • dog with a stockingDr. O’Sullivan advises cat and dog owners to “update your pet’s microchip information just in case your cat or leaves when your guests arrive.” We all know that in the confusion and excitement surrounding the arrival of family and friends, our fur babies can slip out the door and into the night without anyone noticing. So, make sure your pets all have some form of current identification, preferably in the form of a microchip but also ID tags or collars.
  • Dr. Basko told us that during “cold weather, many outdoor cats will seek shelter underneath your car or your guest’s car because it is warm. Bang on the hood and honk your horn before starting the engine. Also look under the car to make sure someone’s old deaf dog is not lying under the wheels.”

So, make sure you AND your fur babies have a happy and safe holiday season by following the advice provided by our panel of veterinarian experts.

Happy Holidays from your Onpets family!



©Onpets, LLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

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