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pet holiday tips
TrainingPet CareHealth

November 21, 2011

PetSafe® Expert

Michelle Mullins, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

Tips for a Safe and Relaxing Holiday Season

Once again the time has flown by and the holiday season is upon us. I always look forward to the spending time with special friends and family including my wonderful pets. Having an attention seeking, counter surfing, chewing, busybody like my collie mix makes managing holiday celebrations, travel and food a challenge. That said a little management and training allows us to spend the holidays (mostly) stress free. I’ve compiled some wonderful holiday wellness tips along with some oldies but goodies I’m sure you are familiar with to keep your holidays festive!


Most dog and cat owners are familiar with the foods dangerous for our pets. Chocolate, raisins, grapes, coffee, tea and rich, fatty foods common at parties can cause symptoms including upset tummy, diarrhea, pain, vomiting, dehydration and even death. Along with these we also need to beware of the following:

  • Macadamia Nuts contain an unknown toxin, which can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscles in dogs.
  • Alcohol – Every year hundreds of pets die after a single bout of alcohol consumption. Don’t forget to keep the eggnog out of reach!
  • Uncooked yeast dough can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.
  • Tobacco products can be fatal to pets if ingested. Keep cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicotine gum and patches, ashtrays out of reach. The butts of cigarettes contain about 25% of the total nicotine in the cigarette so empty ashtrays frequently.
  • Meat-soaked strings from roasts and poultry are very enticing to pets. Ingestion can cause a surgical emergency when the string lodges in the digestive system.

Although you do need to be vigilant, keeping pets away from the kitchen while preparing and cleaning up the holiday feasts and pet-proofing your garbage goes along way in keeping them safe. During parties – inform guests not to feed the dog or consider providing a holiday tin of Liver Biscotti for guests to “treat” the well behaved pets.    


The holidays often bring lots of visitors to your home. Whether you are having a holiday party or just entertaining a few guests, pets can find the situation overwhelming and become anxious or frightened. While you may want to have your furry friends around during the festivities you should consider their well being first. New people smells, food everywhere, children playing, music blaring and someone sitting in my favorite sleeping spot could be Fido’s view of the party. Consider your pets when planning holiday get-togethers and plan the most effective, least stressful ways for you and your pet to manage the event.

Could your dog or cat be overwhelmed by over-exuberant children or loud sports show viewing? Are any guests allergic to pets? Will your Dad feed Fido from the table?

  • Consider giving your pet a vacation – a trip to daycare and a night at the local pet resort might be much more fun for Fido than skirting out of the way of party guests and running from playful children all evening. An added bonus to you is being able to cook, party and clean up without worrying about your pet’s safety.
  • Keeping feeding, exercise and playtimes consistent during the holidays can reduce stress and avoid problems.
  • Advise guests of the rules for pets and ask them to please abide by them.
  • Provide access to a quiet room to which the pet can “escape” to if they feel stressed, anxious or sleepy.
  • Keep pets in a closed bedroom or a crate during the festivities. This keeps them safe and avoids the possibility of them slipping out as guests arrive.
  • Never leave dogs and children unsupervised no matter how well behaved.
  • Having guest bring their pets and introducing new or unfamiliar pets can be stressful enough to your pet without the added holiday activities. Try to avoid this during the season. However if guest are bringing their pet or you are bringing your pet to visit, introduce pets in a neutral location. Be sure to have all pets securely restrained and have treats available to reward positive behaviors and interactions. Never leave newly introduced animals unsupervised.


My dogs always travel with me 6 ½ hours “home” to my parent’s house in the mountains of southwest Virginia. We pretty much have it down to a science now after a lot of trial and error. Here are tips for making travel safe and stress free:

  • Practice car travel with your pet from an early age.
  • Pets should travel in a crate, with safety/car harnesses or in the back behind pet safety gates.
  • Get an ID tag listing your temporary location and cell phone number for the pet’s collar.
  • Stop often for potty breaks and always clean up after your dog.
  • Pack a flashlight and plenty of bags for late night potty breaks.
  • Bring plenty of fresh water and a bowl. I usually bring a cooler of ice chips, which my dogs love, and the ice melts along the way for extra fresh, cold water.
  • Make sure to use harnesses and headcollars properly fit and put their leash on before exiting the car to avoid dogs getting loose around parking lots and near roadways.
  • Check signs for dog walk areas at rest stops.
  • Pack a few of your pets favorite chew toys along with their food and treats. Don’t forget their favorite blanket or pillow.
  • When visiting at someone’s home, or having guests stay with you, ask them to keep potentially harmful objects, medications. etc. out of reach or crate your pets when unsupervised.
  • Check local hotels where you will be staying for those that are pet friendly – sometimes it is less stressful for everyone if you have and your pets have some down time after visiting all day.
  • If you need to leave your pets at home while you travel, make arrangements early as most boarding facilities fill up early during the holiday season. Pet sitters can be a good alternative. Either way, familiarize your pet with the staff or sitters before the trip.
  • If your pet needs medication(s), make sure you pack plenty when traveling or boarding, as many veterinary clinics are closed during the holidays.
  • Think twice about traveling by plane. Pets travel in the cargo hold and it can be dangerous especially in cold or hot weather and very stressful. Boarding them can be a better alternative.

  What are your favorite pet-friendly tips for keeping your pets happy and safe during the holidays?

Written by

Michelle Mullins, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

Michelle Mullins, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

PetSafe® Trainer & Educator

PetSafe® Expert

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