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Pet Wellness

How to Keep Your Pets Healthy and Safe During the Holidays

Dr. Lisa Lippman, Photo: Courtesy of Rosie Layton

Celebrity veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lippman shares the biggest holiday hazards to your pets and how to celebrate with them safely.

What are the top foods pet owners should avoid feeding their pets during the holidays?

Sadly, for pets, most of the really tasty stuff isn’t good for them. Stay away from fatty foods and buttery foods, which can lead to pancreatitis, as well as xylitol artificial sweetener, chocolate, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, currants, and alcohol.

What are the safest foods to feed your pet during the holidays? 

Lean cuts of unseasoned, cooked meats can be fine for cats and dogs, as can many fresh fruits and veggies. Basically, foods that you’d feed them during non-holiday times. 

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What are the most common incidents of food poisoning you see as a veterinarian? 

I see a fair amount of the things you’d expect: chocolate, grapes, plants, etc. What people don’t always suspect are things like artificial sweeteners and chemicals like antifreeze. Antifreeze is especially common in the colder months and is, for the record, sweet-tasting and very toxic.

What are the top safety concerns for pets during the holiday months?

Food is one of the top concerns. Even if an owner is diligent, guests in the home may not be, and pets often get fed forbidden snacks by well-meaning family members and house guests during the holiday season. A lot of it isn’t the usual suspects like chocolate, but rather things like onion, garlic, fatty cuts of meat, buttery foods, etc. Also, alcohol is always bad for pets and often plentiful during the holidays.

Decorations and other festive décor also get overlooked. Lots of people are careful about Halloween candy but forget that a bunch of strangers in costume might frighten their dog or cat into running away. Or they remember to hide the poinsettia, but they forget that garland and lights can be a choking hazard. 

What measures would you recommend pet owners take to make sure their pets don’t get intoxicated or hurt by holiday foods and decorations? 

Try and look at things from your pet’s point of view. What may be fun for us could seem really frightening or strange to them — fireworks, Halloween costumes, and lots of houseguests are all great examples of this.

Keep all food well out of reach, make sure your house guests understand that table scraps aren’t allowed, and keep your pet’s safety in mind when decorating for the season. Little changes like avoiding poisonous plants and garland or choosing plastic ornaments over glass can make a big difference.

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If your pet isn’t a fan of the holiday merriment, be sure to provide them a safe space to relax and unwind. If they seem miserable or too wound up, don’t feel guilty about crating them in a quiet place and letting them chill out safely. 

What are the best and safest ways to include your pets in the holiday festivities?

Think of ways to celebrate with them, not celebrate despite them. While it’s fun to think of them celebrating alongside the family, sometimes they aren’t into it, and sometimes the risk of injury or getting into something they shouldn’t is simply too high.  

I love the idea of getting your pet a little pet-approved gift for the holidays, whether it’s their own stocking on the mantle or a little something on the first night of Hannukah. There are tons of safe holiday-themed treats and toys made specially for pets. 

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