nardo-holidayIf you looked at our holiday cards from years ago, you’d notice our smiling faces were always joined by a tiny fur face. Though our Nardo cat was definitely not smiling under that Santa hat, there was plenty about the holidays that he loved: wrapping presents (chewing up wrapping paper), decorating the tree (knocking off the ornaments), and tying bows (chasing the ribbons).

But the Christmas Nardo spent at the veterinary hospital was definitely not as happy. Fortunately he had a short-lived virus and with a little rest and some fluids, he was feeling much better. Many other pets are not as lucky at the holidays.

What can we do to make sure that our holiday season is full of happy faces—including furry faces—and no visits to the vet? We turned to a vet for some holiday advice!

Dr Kate's advice for healthy holiday pets

Dr. Kate with Scooch and Pod

I’m so excited to introduce you to Dr. Kate Steinhacker. Dr. Kate is an experienced integrative veterinary practitioner in the Boston area. She enjoys working in both clinic and house call settings, and is certified in veterinary acupuncture (CVA), Chinese herbal medicine (CVCH), Chinese nutritional therapy (CVFT), and TuiNa therapy (CVTP). In 2015, Dr. Kate became one of 21 Fellows of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (FAAVA). You can learn more about Dr. Kate at her website and follow along on Facebook for fun videos and photos (puppies and kittens and more!).

Dr. Kate was kind enough to answer some of our questions about how to have safe and healthy holiday pets this season.

What are the most common preventable pet health problems around the holidays?

piper healthy holiday pets

Piper the Australian Shepherd

For dogs, it’s mostly gastrointestinal issues from eating foods they are not accustomed to eating OR gorging on things they find. Picture a party (like a Christmas party or Christmas dinner) when everyone is feeding Fluffy a little of this and a little of that and everything that falls on the floor is Fluffy’s. Or the day after the party when dealing with leftovers and people hand off huge amounts of meat and fat, turkey skin or bacon fat to the dog. We tend to see a lot of pancreatitis and other milder GI problems (like vomiting and diarrhea) around the holidays as a result.

Dogs will also eat things they cannot handle such as an entire cooked turkey leg, which can splinter within the GI tract, causing perforation at worst (resulting in likely death) and blockage at best.

I think the biggest risks to cat health are usually ribbons and tinsel, as they swallow them and develop life-threatening gastrointestinal blockages. Cats can also wreak havoc on Christmas decorations, resulting in broken glass and even fires…(love them!!!)

Holiday decorating: what should we avoid to keep our pets safe?

  • Don’t allow cats to be unsupervised in a room with tinsel, ribbon, glass decorations, or Christmas trees.
  • Do not allow a cat or dog to lick the water under the Christmas tree.
  • Don’t allow dogs unfettered access to rooms with Christmas decorations (as they may be eaten and transformed into gastrointestinal obstructions).

    healthy holiday pets

    Gandalf the Grey (Alfie)

Are essential oils safe to use around or on cats and dogs?

Essential oils must be diluted with almond oil before using on pets. The dilution should be 1 drop essential oil to 5 drops almond oil. The typical application site is to rub the oil mixture onto the pads.

Some helpful relaxing essential oils for dogs/cats include lavender, tangerine peel, orange peel, chamomile, bergamot, rose, ylang ylang, patchouli, and blue tansy.

What are the best gifts for pets?

Cats love the wand with the string and the bird-like thing on the end—like this cat catcher teaser wand.

Larger breed dogs love Bully sticks and chuck-its. Smaller breed dogs like “dead squirrel” type toys that they can “kill” and shake.

For safety, don’t allow any pet to play alone with a toy. Most toys can come apart in some way, and it’s important to know what’s going on so they don’t eat them.

Any other tips for keeping pets happy & safe during this season?

Give the dogs and cats lots of play time and affection, and take the dog for extra walks.

Thank you for sharing this great advice, Dr. Kate! For more tips on how to have healthy holiday pets, join us below and download our free printable Holiday Guide for safe & happy pets, with ideas for decorations, safe foods, and pet-friendly plants you can safely give to pet owners.

How do you include your furkids in your holiday celebrations? Do you dress them up? What part of the holidays do they enjoy the most? How do you make sure to have healthy holiday pets? Please share!

This post is part of our Celebrating What Matters series, a countdown to the holidays. We’ve talked about health in Party Foods that (Almost) Anyone Can Enjoy and How to Make a Sparkle Bar, and about How to Have a Calm Holiday Season. Last week we shared 3 Ways to Celebrate Community During the Holidays. Please subscribe to receive updates as the series continues!