by Stefanie Schreck, SCRP, SGMS
Source: PetRelocation.com and VetStreet.com
The holidays can be a very busy time of year – not unlike the relocation process. Unfortunately, our pets, who we often consider our two- or four-legged children, can get lost in the shuffle and react to the anxiety of relocating and the chaos surrounding the holidays.
Below we list 10 tips for keeping your pets safe during a relocation and around the holidays. The following tips can be referenced any time stress levels are high.
1. Make sure human food is out of your pet’s reach:
The holiday season could also be known as "table scrap season," and it's up to you to establish some boundaries. A few bits of turkey might not hurt, but don't overdo it when it comes to treating your pet to rich, fatty food. If you're traveling somewhere else or entertaining guests, it's also important to educate your fellow animal lovers about what's okay and what's not okay.
If you suspect your pet may have eaten a dangerous food, contact your veterinarian immediately. In many cases, early recognition and treatment are critical. The following is a list of the top dangerous foods for pets to ingest:
1. Xylitol (artificial sweetener found in products such as gum, candy, mints, toothpaste, and mouthwash
2. Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine
3. Grapes and Raisins
5. Garlic and Onions
6. Macadamia Nuts
2. Close the door (the drawer, the window, the trash can lid…)
Once you know your relative risks, you can be better prepared for them, and that can be as simple as keeping things closed. A rule of thumb: if it’s small enough to get jaws around, bite a piece off or swallow, there’s a pet willing to try. Make sure problem items are safely put away. Keeping doors, drawers and lids closed will also help prevent pets from getting into trouble, as they'll be less likely to climb into something dangerous.
3. Be sensitive
Pets can freak out a little when they're away from their usual surroundings, so think of their needs and consider the situation carefully before you even leave. If they're up for the trip, pack a few familiar items, like favorite toys, a cozy bed, or a blanket that smells like home to help calm any possibly frayed nerves.
4. Maintain a schedule
Holidays often represent a break in routine, travel or the introduction of people who aren’t as pet-savvy, like your relatives. Remind them of pet-safe practices such as making sure not to leave medication on counters or nightstands. Again, don’t leave candy dishes where pets can reach them.
When you feed and exercise your pets on a normal schedule, they're less likely to notice or care that their world has been turned festively upside down. Speaking of exercise, it wouldn't hurt to get your pets moving a little more than usual; burning energy by running, walking and playing leaves them less time to feel anxious, a fact that applies any time of year.
5. Never underestimate the trouble a youngster can get into
Do you look back at your teen years and wonder how you survived them? "Teen" pets are also at higher risk. We are often appropriately vigilant about young puppies and kittens, but sometimes we let our guard down when our pets enter their “teenage” period. Just because your dog or cat looks grown-up doesn’t mean he or she is. Plan accordingly.
6. Fences, leashes and training can be a pet’s best friends
Counter-cruising may be amusingly annoying, unless your dog eats two pounds of onion rings or enough bread dough to risk his life. If your dog chases squirrels, that may be “what dogs do” — assuming he isn’t hit by a car doing it — but there's always the possibility your dog will brawl with a buck. Fencing to keep pets from roaming or to keep them away from hazards such as a swimming pool can be life-saving. Training them to leave things on the counter alone or to come when called can also save lives. Cover all your bets with training, and keep your dog safely on leash or in a securely fenced yard.
7. Plan ahead
It's already too late for some things (people choosing to board their pets know that most kennels are probably booked by now), but it's still wise – not to mention polite – to double check with all hosts, family and friends you'll be seeing to make sure that they're okay with your four-legged tagalong. It's easy to assume that everyone is a pet lover like you, but in reality this simply isn't the case.
8. Get your vehicle ready
Be sure that your car is ready to safely transport your pet. Take a practice run with the safety harness you've selected to make sure it's going to work, and don't forget to pack extra leashes and water dishes in the trunk just in case you need them.
9. Organize your info
When leaving your home base, it's especially important to have all rabies and ID tags properly displayed, and in the event of a separation, keep a current photo of your pet in your wallet or on your smart phone. Locate a vet near your hosts’ house in case your pet gets sick during your visit, carry a small first-aid kit in the car, and program a few emergency numbers into your phone.
10. Have fun!
All too often, stress can creep into a holiday setting and make things more complicated than they need to be. Pets easily pick up on your anxiety, so do them a favor by keeping cool. A few simple techniques, like heading out for a brisk walk after being stuck in traffic all day or teaching your nieces and nephews to play Frisbee with Fido, can help remind you what the holidays are really all about.