Holiday Pet Questions with Dr. Rachel Casamina

tired dogThe holidays are upon us. This can cause a little extra stress for us and our pets. To help keep that stress to a minimum for our pets, Dr. Rachel Casamina of the Sunnyvale Veterinary Clinic is answering a few holiday pet questions.

Q: Friends and family are going to be coming to visit for the holidays. What is the best way to keep dogs and cats calm during this exciting time?

A: The key is to prepare ahead of time. Get your pet used to visitors to the home by recruiting friends/neighbors to come to the house in the weeks prior to the big party. See how your pet reacts to music, then gradually turn it up until he doesn’t mind it at a high volume. If you’re reading this last minute, or if your pet seems particularly anxious at these trial runs, see your veterinarian for short-term strategies (mild tranquilizer or anti-anxiety medication) and then work on this for next year.

Create a sanctuary in a separate room that will have everything your pet needs (food, water, comfortable bed, a litter box, window and perch for a cat.) Get your pet used to this room by having her spend gradually increasing amounts of time in it with her favorite toys and treats to keep her busy. Crate trained pets do especially well with this strategy. You can also add de-stressing pheromones such as Feliway or Dog Appeasing Pheromone in these areas.

Even if you’re not having a gathering, it’s important to stick to routines during this busy time. Make sure your pets are getting their meals and exercise at the usual times. It might be good to even amp up the exercise routine. A tired pet is a happy, well-behaved pet. Also, pets can pack on the weight during the holiday season just like we can, so this is probably a good idea anyway.

Q: We are going away for the holidays and have to fly. Should we take our pet with us on the plane or board it at a pet facility?

A: This is highly pet and trip dependent. Long visits (1-2 weeks or more) might be worth the hassle, especially if your destination is pet friendly and you can plan activities for you to enjoy with your pet. If your pet is going to be alone all day anyway, they’ll probably enjoy your time away more if they were left at home rather than in an unfamiliar setting. Remember that when larger pets fly, they travel in cargo, which is not always climate controlled. For road trips, consider how your pet does on shorter car rides. See your veterinarian for anti-motion sickness medication, if necessary. If you plan to travel with your pet, it’s a good idea to get your pet used to a crate/carrier if she isn’t already.

Otherwise, there are plenty of options for pet care while you’re away. Many veterinary offices offer boarding services, so they’ll be in good hands if your pet becomes ill during your trip. Some boarding facilities include play time with their day-care clients, which can be great fun and a great socialization opportunity. Another option is an at-home sitter, who can visit your pet several times a day or even spend the night. I like to have a relationship with at least one or two boarding facilities or sitters that my pet has been to for day care or a visit. This way they are already familiar with the setting and won’t be as stressed while you’re gone.

A few logistical things to remember:

-Depending on the airline and destination, traveling pets often require a health certificate within 10 days of travel. International trips often require an additional appointment with the regional USDA veterinarian, so plan accordingly and ahead of time.

-A quality boarding facility will require up to date vaccinations and parasite control. Make sure your pet is current on his preventive health care to avoid having to scramble to your veterinarian’s office at the last minute.

Q: I am going away for 3 days. Is it ok to leave my cat/dog alone if I leave enough food and water for it while I am away?

A: This can be dangerous. While your pet may do fine at home when you’re gone at work, their behavior may change when you stress them by not returning at your usual time. Stressed/bored animals will unusual things to soothe or entertain themselves. I have seen cats and dogs accidentally locked in a room, or out of water because they spilled it on the carpet, or entrapped in their own collar. They can also be very destructive- I know someone who came home to a flood (a towel ended up clogging a running sink, which their pet turned on while trying to get at the family goldfish.) Pets left at home should be checked on at least once daily for a cat, and twice daily at the minimum for dogs that need outside potty access. This way you already have someone equipped to care for your pet should your travel plans change unexpectedly.

Q: Can I give my dog/cat the turkey leg to chew on?

A: No! Turkey legs are very fragile and splinter easily. They not only cause blockage- they can actually puncture a hole through your pets intestinal tract! Ouch! (And life-threatening.)

Bones in general are not great for pets. It is true that they can clean teeth very well, but you also run the risk of breaking them! They can also cause digestive problems, including blockage or perforation.

This ends part one of the interview.
Part two of the interview covers food toxicity, the dangers of mistletoe and how to keep the cat out of the Christmas tree.

Sunnyvale Veterinary Clinic
1036 W. El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087


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