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Four Tips For a Fun-Filled Holiday With your Pet

Editor’s note: Our first featured expert, Eva Andres, is a dog behaviorist who understands the important impact dogs and other pets can have on people’s health. Her first post focuses on having a fun, healthy, stress-free holiday season with your pet.

Studies show that pets can improve people’s emotional, mental and even physical health. Dog ownership has been associated with:

  • Lowering the risk of developing allergies
  • Decreasing the risk of obesity
  • Decreasing loneliness/improving socialization opportunities
  • Decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Americans are taking advantage of these health benefits in droves: according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 65 percent of all Americans own a pet. 

Pets’ health and well-being are intricately connected to our own, so with that in mind, here are four tips to make sure you and your pets stay safe and happy during the holidays. 

Tip #1-Create pet "safety zones"

If you are hosting a celebration you may want to place your pet in a crate or a quiet room as people start to arrive, or for the entire time, depending on your pet’s disposition. This ensures they don’t escape out an open door, and it protects them from becoming overwhelmed and anxious with the hustle and bustle of guests coming and going. 

Some pets take their duty of guarding the home very seriously, and they may become overly on guard and agitated as strangers arrive. 

Keeping pets contained helps lower stress levels for both you and your pets, allowing you to relax and enjoy your time with your guests. 

Tip #2-Don’t force pets to mingle with guests

Once everyone has arrived and the mood has calmed a bit, it may be OK for pets to come out of their safety zone to mix and mingle, but be aware that bite incidents rise exponentially during the holiday season due to guests:

  • Forcing themselves on the pet too quickly
  • Talking too loudly or excitedly
  • Introducing new toys that get pets too wound up
  • Allowing their children to walk around with food and eating at the pet’s face level
  • Allowing children to roughhouse around or with pets

As an owner, trust your instincts, and if you feel your pet may become agitated, keep them on a leash or in their crate, and don’t allow your guests to force themselves on your pet. 

The last thing anyone needs to ruin the festive mood is the stress of a biting incident. 

Tip #3-Watch what your pet eats

You definitely don’t want to run to Urgent Care with your pet this holiday season (or ever) so be sure to watch what your pet eats. It’s human nature to want to share delicious holiday treats with your four-legged friends, but many human foods can make them sick including, but not limited to:

  • Fatty foods
  • Nutmeg
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes, raisins, and fruits with seeds or pits
  • Rhubarb
  • Yeast dough (can expand in their stomachs)
  • Xylitol (found in some chewing gum)
  • Raw eggs, meat, or fish
  • Salt (watch out for playdough!)

For a healthy treat, take the lead from the ingredients list on your pet’s everyday food. Whatever proteins, vegetables and fruits are listed would certainly be acceptable as treats on their own in small quantities. 

Tip #4-Avoid separation anxiety

Leaving your pets behind can be stressful for both you and your pet. Minimize separation anxiety by fully vetting your pet’s caregiver, whether they are an at-home sitter or a kennel. Word of mouth and online reviews are usually the best resources for finding quality care for pets while you are away. 

Another option is to bring your pet with you. Traveling with pets has become more mainstream over the past few years, and it can add a lot of enjoyment to your trip if you don’t have to leave your dog behind (cats are almost always happier at home). A quick online search will reveal hundreds of pet-friendly hotels around the country. 

Anytime there is a change in routine, there is added risk of accidents happening, especially when animals are involved. These four tips should minimize the risk and keep both you and your pet relaxed and happy this holiday season!