New Year Celebrations with Pets

Greetings, friends! I apologize for not updating Purry Home Companion in time for Christmas. I have been busy with a few things in my personal life. However, I do want to share some tips concerning New Year celebrations before 2018 kicks off.

New Year Celebration Safety Tips

This holiday, like many others, often includes fireworks, which can be stressful for many pets. Here are a few things to keep in mind so that your pets stay safe and calm during end-of-year festivities:

  1. Proper ID. Ensure your pets have collars with current tags and microchipped with up-to-date information.
    1. The biggest risk for New Year’s Eve (as with Independence Day) is that pets unexpectedly get separated from their owners and wander loose.
    2. The sounds of fireworks, noisemakers, and gunfire can absolutely terrify pets, some of which, in the grips of severe panic mode, can bloody their paws clawing at locked doors or break through glass windows. (This kind of reaction is called noise anxiety.)
    3. If your pet manages to bolt outside but is wearing proper identification, they can be swiftly identified and returned home.
  2. Keep pets indoors and escape proof the house. If possible, keep them in a safe and enclosed room, preferably without windows, where pets cannot hurt themselves or damage your belongings. If you are hosting a party in your home, consider putting your pets in a room off-limits to guests.
    1. This safe space should be outfitted with food, water, and toys (see #3, #9, and #10).
    2. Give your pet a comfortable sleeping spot, be it a crate, bed, cat tower, old couch, or spare bed. Some pets tend to hide when nervous and appreciate it when furniture is available to duck behind or underneath. A number of cats feel safer if inside a box or up high, such as on a cat tower, a shelf, or on top of a tall piece of furniture.
    3. Don’t forget to provide a litter box for your cat. Be sure to take your dog out on a last call walk or trip to the yard so they can do their business before the party starts. Taking such precautions also reduces the risk of your pet having an accident inside the house.
    4. Confining your pet will also reduce the opportunity for your pet to slip out the door as guests are coming or leaving.
    5. Some pets can become stressed when exposed to a lot of people, especially those they do not know or children. Keep in mind that while you may feel comfortable in social gatherings, your pet may not. Having a positive “time out” place can lessen this anxiety. For example, Charlie, who is still a bit timid, is reactive to a number of sounds and has a tendency to shy away from new people. He hides when he feels overwhelmed. Garrus is quite selective with his socializing and appreciates being able to go somewhere to chill out. Even Boudicca, my most social cat, will slip away to her bed to catch a short nap when we entertain.
  3. Create a calming environment.
    1. Surround your pet with their favorite toys and other familiar objects, like a soft blanket or towel. If the blanket, towel, or article of clothing smells like their favorite person, this might comfort them even more. For example, my late cat Nala loved squishing herself into Aaron’s backpack or duffel bag.
    2. Play soothing music to help cover up alarming sounds. You can find a number of pet-calming music playlists on YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes.
    3. Keep the room as quiet as possible by securely closing doors, windows, and blinds. Be sure to keep cords for blinds or drapes well away from pets so they cannot chew on them.
    4. A Thundershirt vest, available for both dogs and cats, may be an additional solution to have on hand when you want to de-stress your pet. These vests can also be employed when taking your pet to the vet, before the onset of thunderstorms, travel, or other stressful situations.
  4. Be mindful of decorations.
    1. Tinsel, ribbons, banners, candles, electric cords, and lights, for example, present various hazards for pets like choking, burns, electric shocks, intestinal blockages, and stomach infections.
    2. Balloons can scare pets if they pop. Pets can possibly choke or suffer digestive issues if they swallow the pieces.
    3. If you still have Christmas decorations out, remember that a number of them pose risks to your pet. Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and Christmas tree pine needles as well as tree water can be hazardous if ingested.
  5. Keep pets away from noisemakers and fire sources. Avoid potential burns, injuries, and possible ingestion by keeping all pets well away from poppers, noisemakers, and any explosives. The same goes for lit candles. If your fireplace is on, make sure that a safety screen is up and secured and watch out for curious pets getting too close.
  6. Keep an eye on the holiday fare. Whether you have a pet with a highly sensitive digestive system or a dog that will eat anything that isn’t nailed down, it is important that you, as a responsible owner, reduce the chance of your pet consuming something dangerous. Don’t be caught unawares and you can avoid an emergency trip to the vet.
    1. Many food and drink items are extremely hazardous or outright poisonous to pets. Do not give pets meat with bones in them (choking, lacerations) or fat trimmings (pancreatitis). Alcohol and chocolate can cause all kinds of problems for pets, such as depression, unsteady walking, digestive issues, and vomiting. In severe cases it can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure and body temperature, coma, seizures, and death! For your pets’ sake, DO NOT LET THEM CONSUME THESE.
    2. If you have guests over, ensure they know not to give your pets table scraps and they need express permission from you before they give any treats to your pet. This will prevent your pet from having an upset stomach and other digestive issues. Too many treats, even those for pets, can make pets sick. You won’t have much fun at your party if you are spending much of the evening cleaning up your pet’s treat-induced messes.
    3. If your guests are bringing dishes, bouquets, medications, or other items, take appropriate precautions.
      1. Many foods can make pets seriously sick, as already mentioned. Grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs, for example. Dairy often upsets cats’ tummies.
      2. A number of beautiful plants and flowers, like poinsettias and lilies, can be deathly poisonous to pets.
      3. Show your guests a safe place to store their medications and remind them to keep any medications well out of paws’ reach.
  7. Natural calming therapies. Lavender oil (Lavendula augustifolia or Lavendula officinalis) can help reduce anxiety in dogs. Feliway sprays or plug-in diffusers can help calm cats. For more information, see #8.
  8. Talk with your vet. If you know your pet has noise anxiety or tends to be nervous, consult with your vet to see if an anti-anxiety medication, such as Zylkene, or other remedy would be useful for your pet. Bear in mind that most veterinarians will not call in last-minute prescriptions for pets they have not diagnosed with noise anxiety.
  9. Tire out your pet prior to festivities. If you have a dog, take your pup out on a long walk and a thorough play session. If you have a cat, take out the laser pointer, cat dancers, or any other toy your cat loves and keep them moving until they tire out. If your cat fetches, this is an added bonus. By doing this, hopefully your pet will be too tired (in a good way) to get very stressed out when the noise starts.
  10. Distract your pets with toys and games. Puzzle toys may keep your pet’s mouth, paws, and mind occupied.
    1. A dog might relish a puzzle toy with a little peanut butter inside. Just make sure that the peanut butter does not have xylitol as an ingredient, as this is harmful to dogs.
    2. Keep in mind that cats can benefit from puzzle toys as much as dogs can.
    3. Use common sense when giving your kitty any catnip. Some cats chill out when given catnip while others are energized. Still others can become aggressive, and this response would be totally unproductive to creating a calm, positive experience for your pet. However, not all cats respond to catnip.
  11. Go to a quieter area. Do you have friends or family who live in a quiet neighborhood or rural area? Do you know of an out-of-the-way pet-friendly hotel? Go there! You and your pet can chill out in comfort with less noise and stress. Make sure you bring your pet’s travel crate and everything else you will need for an overnight jaunt away from home. Oh yeah, pack a few things for yourself while you’re at it!
  12. Comfort your pet. Speak soothingly, show plenty of calm affection, and give treats when your pet is being calm. Some pets will learn that as long as you are near that they are safe; hopefully they may stop being as clingy. Some particularly high-strung pets may always need to be comforted during noisy festivities and other stressful situations.

Prepare for a Holiday Emergency

No pet owner wants to deal with a medical emergency, and holidays can certainly make that a bigger headache and considerably more stressful for both you and your pet. Here’s how you, as a responsible pet owner, can be ultra-prepared for unexpected situations:

  1. Ask your veterinary practice about their hours over weekends and the holidays. If they will be closed, ensure that you know who to contact and where to get emergency care if your pet gets sick or injured.
  2. Add the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) to your phone: 1-888-426-4435. This is available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide assistance in case of a pet poison emergency. A $65 consultation fee may apply, but a portion of this is covered if you have an ASPCA pet health insurance plan.
  3. Keep a pet first-aid kit within easy reach and stocked with gauze pads, cotton balls, adhesive tape. Additional information about pet first-aid can be found here.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

While I have compiled these safety tips so you can be prepared for any potential dangers, you should remember to enjoy saying goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018 in the company of your fur people and loved ones. Here are a few ways you can do so:

  1. Dress your pet in dapper apparel. Some pets don’t mind or even enjoy wearing clothes, and it’s easy and enjoyable to take pictures of them dolled up as a way of making memories. However, don’t force your pet to dress up if you know he or she becomes very stressed when put into costumes.
  2. Movie marathon. Doesn’t that sound snuggly and relaxing? Our resident snuggle buddy, Boudicca, for example, is ecstatic whenever she gets lap time. We’re teaching the boys how to snuggle with us. Charlie occasionally seems like he watches the movie along with us.
  3. Baking party. Instead of a noisy New Years Eve bash, invite your pet-loving friends and experiment baking pet-friendly treats. The cool thing about this choice is that you can easily incorporate #1 and #2 as well!

May your and your pet have a wonderful year! 

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