Hosting Holiday Guests? Keep Your Pets Happy and Healthy Around Visitors

December 12, 2016

two pitbulls next to a christmas tree

It’s the time of year when you’ll be opening your home to your closest family and friends, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to enjoy your holiday celebrations with everyone you love—including your four-legged companions.  But did you know that holiday guests can bring along a variety of potential hazards and dangers for your furry friends? Fortunately, the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has got you covered with all the safety tips you need to know about hosting guests during the holiday months.

Set Ground Rules for Guests

Does your pet have a sensitive stomach? Make sure that all of your guests know ahead of time not to spoil your pet with holiday treats or table scraps. Try introducing a bowl of safe snacks, like carrots, for your more persistent guests who want to treat your furry friends.

Make sure that guests know that they need to get your “okay” before giving your pet any snacks so that you can ensure that they won’t ingest something that will upset their stomach or potentially cause pancreatitis (a condition that can be triggered by too much rich food), especially if your pet has a history of a sensitive stomach or related conditions.

Also, read our full list of potentially harmful foods so that you can inform your guests on what to avoid feeding your pet during a holiday visit.

Give Your Pet a Safe Space

If your pet is not used to having a lot of people around, especially small children, make sure that they have a safe space to take a “time out.” For dogs, this may be a room of their own, or a kennel away from all of the hustle and bustle. Make sure that they have a bowl of water and, if appropriate, a puzzle ball or chew toys to keep them happy and occupied.

For cats, their safe space might be a spare bedroom complete with a litter box and water dish, or it may just be behind their favorite piece of furniture. Make sure to explain to children that this is your pet’s safe place, and that they should respect the area and leave the dog or cat alone when he or she retreats to their space.

Screen Incoming Items

A family member might bring their “famous dessert,” complete with grapes. Grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs, so if you see a dessert containing grapes make its way into your kitchen, make sure that no one gives any of the small fruit to the family dog to avoid a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital.

Perhaps someone brings a beautiful bouquet for the table. You’ll want to make sure that there are no poisonous plants (especially lilies, if you have cats). If there are, gently remove all of the lilies and their leaves and replace the water in the vase. If you feel that this will insult your guest, make sure that your pets are all kept in a separate room until the guests leave and you are able to rearrange the bouquet so that there is no risk of a curious wet nose finding their way into them.

If visiting family members have packed medications with them, show them a safe place to store them while they are visiting, and remind them to keep medication off the ground and out of paws’ reach. Each year, hundreds of pets grab medications out of suitcases or off of tables while family members are visiting. This could be extremely dangerous, especially if you are unaware of what your pet could have ingested.

Finally, make sure that guests haven’t brought wrapped food items to place under the tree. Just because the gift is wrapped doesn’t mean your pet can’t smell it! While popcorn may give your dog a slight tummy ache, chocolate could send them to the ER.

If you fear that your pet may have ingested a potential dangerous item or ingredient, contact your veterinarian or the APCC at (888) 426-4435 immediately.