Whether at home for the holidays, hitting the road, or taking flight, pet owners should take extra precautions to keep the holidays safe and jolly for their four-legged companions.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
• Make sure any tree, real or faux, is secure in its base so a pet cannot knock it over.
• Cover the tree’s water basin and clean up debris. Tree water and fallen tree needles can be harmful if ingested. Tinsel, ornaments and glittery objects can be tempting and dangerous for pets. Also, plastic bags can become a strangulation hazard, and smaller decorations like confetti may require surgery for removal.
• Beware of your festive plants. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA], some seasonal plants such as holly and mistletoe are not safe for pets to ingest. Pet owners should consider plastic or silk plants as safe alternatives.
• Keep electrical accessories such as wires, batteries and light bulbs out of reach.
• According to the ASPCA, leftover bones or table scraps that contain spicy or salty seasonings should not be fed to any pet. Gristle and fat can cause pets gastrointestinal distress, and smaller bones can cause choking.
• Don’t leave alcoholic beverages unsupervised. Thirsty pets do not know the difference between “virgin” and “spiked”!
• If you’re hosting for the holidays, be sure to provide a quiet space for your pet that includes a pet bed, toys, litter box, fresh food and water. Also, be sure your pets get some outdoor time during the busy holiday season.
HITTING THE ROAD
• For longer holiday trips, prepare your pet in advance by taking them on short drives, gradually lengthening time spent in the car with each trip. If you’re traveling across state lines, bring along your pet’s vaccination records. Some states require this.
• Always use a well-ventilated crate carrier large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around inside comfortably when traveling. The crate should be secured so it will not slide around or turn over in the vehicle.
• Go over the checklist. Do you have food, a leash if applicable, a water bowl, waste bags, a first-aid kit, any medication your pet requires, travel documents, etc.? To make your pet feel more at home, pack a favorite toy or blanket for the ride. Avoid feeding your pet in a moving vehicle as that can cause nausea and choking. According to the ASPCA, a travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure. Bottled water is a safe drinking alternative, as water from unfamiliar areas can cause illness.
• Never leave a pet in a parked vehicle. While animals and humans can suffer from heatstroke in hot cars in the warmer months, a car can act as a refrigerator in the winter by insulating the cold and causing pets to suffer from hypothermia.
• When flying, schedule a check-up with your veterinarian and make sure your pet’s vaccinations are current. Request a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of departure. Book a direct flight whenever possible to lessen chances of pets being left outside the tarmac in the cold or mishandled by baggage personnel during layovers.
• Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate. The crate should be large enough for your pet to sit, stand and turn around, and it should be lined with shredded paper or towels to absorb bathroom accidents. Make sure the crate door is securely closed, but not locked, so that personnel can open it in case of an emergency.
• Food and water. According to the ASPCA, its recommended that owners tape a small pouch of dried food outside the crate, so airline personnel can feed the pet during a layover. Before departing, freeze a small dish or tray of water for your pet so it doesn’t spill during loading and will melt by the time they’re thirsty.
• Make sure your pet’s crate has proper and easy-to-see identification. Mark the crate with the words “Live Animal.” Include your name, contact information, final destination, phone number and a photo of your pet. You should also carry a photograph of your pet for identification purposes should they manage to escape.
• For flights outside the U.S., additional requirements may be required. Contact the foreign office of the country you are traveling to for more information.