Ah, the holiday season is upon us. Dazzling lights and decorations, Christmas carols, and New Year’s cheer. Caring and sharing.

It’s also a time to use caution if you have fur-babies at home. Family pets need extra attention this month to keep them safe. Here are five tips to help protect your dogs, cats, and other indoor pets during holiday festivities.

1. Holiday Decorations

When you put up your tree and decorate your house, be aware of some possible dangers involving your pets. Cats and dogs might be curious about your hanging ornaments, and bat at, or chew on them. Broken decorations can be hazardous if swallowed, especially those with glass or long strings.

If you light extra candles for Christmas, be sure children and animals can’t knock them over. Are you blessed with curious pets? Consider keeping wrapped presents out of reach instead of under the tree. If some of your gifts contain food, such as summer sausage, cheese, or cookies, don’t tempt your dog who might be searching for a between-meal snack.

Unless you know for certain your pets will leave the tree and household decorations alone, take steps to keep it all secure and away from playful paws.

2. Cold Temperatures

For those celebrating the holidays in warm climates, this might not be applicable to you. However, if you live in Idaho, or other areas where the temperatures dip below freezing, and snow is always a possibility, please take extra care to keep your pets warm and dry.

Make sure they have water, and if it is outside, that you have a way to keep it from freezing. Don’t keep your pets outdoors for extended periods, especially during extreme cold weather. Freezing temperatures can be harmful or even fatal for outside pets.

3. The Great Escape

Are you having holiday parties or an open house? Expecting a large group of family and friends for a holiday dinner? Please make sure your indoor pets don’t have access to the outside door while your guests are coming and going.

It’s easy for dogs and cats to slip outdoors unnoticed when their people are distracted. Then it doesn’t take long for your beloved pet to follow interesting smells out of your sight or hide under your neighbor’s shrubs, too frightened to come out in the open.

4. Noxious Plants and Foods

Good news about your holiday poinsettia. Although it’s been rumored to be toxic to pets, toxicity from eating any part of this plant is minor. After chewing on a leaf or two, Fido or Fluffy might vomit, drool, or have diarrhea, but these symptoms usually clear up quickly with no long-term problems.

However, there are over 700 plants that can be harmful to dogs and cats, including many common household ones such as aloe vera, lilies (especially dangerous to cats), amaryllis, philodendrons, and holly. You can find a list of pet-toxic garden and household plants through this UC Davis website http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ccah/health_information/plants_pets.cfm

While you’re preparing your holiday feasts, don’t fall for your dog’s oh-so-cute begging by throwing him scraps without knowing which ones might be harmful or fatal. Some foods which should never be fed to dogs or cats include chocolate, grapes and raisins, onions and garlic, avocado, certain nuts, alcohol, and xylitol (a commonly-used artificial sweetener.) The National Center for Biotechnology Information has additional information on these and other dangerous foods for pets. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984110/

5. Vacation Pet Care

If you plan on going away during any part of the holidays, consider hiring a professional pet sitter for your dog, cat, or any other pets in your household. While neighbors and relatives may agree to help out, it is a lot to ask of them when you need someone to pick up mail and bring in newspapers, water plants, feed and give fresh water to your dogs and cats, pick up their puppy bombs in the back yard, and clean up litter boxes. You also want someone to spend quality time with your animals.

A bonded, licensed, and insured pet sitter can take care of everything while you’re away, and devote time to give your pets the love and attention they need. She can play with your cats, walk your dogs, and ensure they stay healthy and happy while you’re away. If you have birds, or fish, or even horses and other large animals, a pet sitting service can give you peace of mind. Trained pet sitters are comfortable giving specialized care with medications and injections while you are away.

These simple precautions and ideas can keep your precious pets safe and secure over the holiday season and all year long, and give you peace of mind.

The pet sitters and dog walkers at The Pet Sitter of Boise would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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