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What to Consider Before Getting a Pet for the Holidays (or ever)

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The gift-giving season has arrived, and for many children (and adults), a cute, snuggly dog or cat is on the list of what they are wishing for.

Over the years, there has been a lot of controversy when it comes to whether or not gifting a pet for the holidays is a good, or terrible, idea.

Thankfully, from the data currently being reported, it seems as though a Hanukkah Husky, Christmas Calico, or Kwanzaa King Charles Spaniel isn't such a bad idea...as long as you do it the right way. On today's episode, Dr. J and I go over the pros and cons, lots of things to take into consideration, and if you decide to add a new family member, tips for setting yourself (and them) up for success.

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Transcript below

Mia: Welcome back to another episode of Paws and Play with Dr. J. I'm your cohost, Mia, and we've got Dr. J here with us. How are you doing today?

Dr. J: I'm doing very well, thank you. How are you?

Mia: I am doing very well as well. The holiday season is upon us. We already actually put up our tree* and yeah…

Dr. J: It's getting festive.

Mia: Yes, exactly. We love being festive. We still have our pumpkin's around too. (*this episode was recorded in early November)

Dr. J: All the holidays do tend to blend in a bit together this time of year, don’t they?

Mia: And Halloween and Christmas are my two favorite holidays, so I enjoy celebrating them together and for as long as possible. Also, Mazel has already started testing the tree again, so can't wait to have Marci back on for another podcast on how to help train your cats to keep them out of the tree.

Mazel in the christmas tree
The only ornament Mazel never paws at, is the one that looks just like him

So speaking of holidays, today we've got a special holiday episode really directed at people that are thinking about getting a pet for the holidays — either for themselves or for a loved one. And, you know, there's been a lot of controversy around whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. What would you say, like if somebody asked you, just gut feeling?

Dr. J: Yeah, you're right, there has been a lot of controversy about whether or not the holidays are actually a good time to get a new pet added to the family. And I think that some of it was well founded before in the concerns in terms of, the concern that people would be making more emotional decisions of getting a pet because it's the holidays.

It's festive without really considering that pets are for life ideally. And so there was concern that more pets wind up relinquished to the shelters because they're obtained at the holidays and people haven't really fully thought it through. The holidays are very hectic. Maybe people are traveling around the holidays and they don't realize the impact that adding a pet has on that.

But fortunately more and more research is actually even showing that pets that are gotten and brought into families around the holidays aren't any more likely to wind up back in the shelters or be ill cared for or people not being prepared for them.

In fact, it might actually be the opposite because people have more time on their hands typically around the holidays, just because they're off from work in school. Of course a lot of that time is taken up with holiday planning and last minute shopping and whatnot. So —

Mia: And eating, don't forget eating.

Dr. J: Oh believe me, I never forget eating. Never!

Mia: Me neither.

Dr. J: But, so I think really, in terms of gut, if somebody asked me just kind of generally are the holidays a good time to add a pet to the family, even if your family is just one or two people, or with kids, generally speaking, I would say actually when done right, it can be a fantastic time to add a new pet. So I'm psyched we're doing this episode right now.

Mia: Yeah, me too. You kind of already went into some of the pros and cons, but maybe let's dive in a little deeper and let's start out with the cons first because we're not trying to get anybody to not get an animal, but we are trying to make sure they do it the right way.

So you know, just like at any time of the year, there is a lot to consider, and looking at a puppy or a kitty face — or an adult cat or dog face — it can be really difficult to not make those kinds of quick emotional decisions.

7 things I wish someone told me before I adopted a dog

Dr. J: Yeah! Avoid these places around the holidays, unless you've really thought it through. Yeah. No, and I mentioned, like with people traveling and the hecticness and stuff, and those would definitely be considered as reasons perhaps not to add a pet at the holidays. And just the fact that, really considering that it is a lifetime decision.

One of the other things is, especially depending on where you live and if you're going to be getting a puppy that's gonna need to do some potty training, if you live in some of the colder climates, really consider that you're going to be doing potty training, potentially against snow and cold rain and shorter daylight hours, so that may impact your decision as well.

I think really the biggest con to getting a pet at the holidays is just really fully evaluating the amount of time that you have available, not just at the holidays but also going forward. So once the school and the work breaks are over, really having a good sense of what that means and how you're gonna raise a new cat or a new dog, whether they're a puppy or a kitten or you know, an adult cat or dog once the holidays are over with.

Mia: Yeah. Well, and you know, I think another thing to consider whether, let's say that you're not traveling but you're having people come visit you. I mean that's a lot for a new animal family member. I mean maybe some of it would be good for socializing.

Dr. J: Yeah, but again, if done right. You know, it can be also be very overwhelming. And your new pet, whether they've just come from a breeder or a shelter, a lot has just changed in their world. They've potentially been bounced around between multiple shelters or rescues or they've just been in one, but they've gone from that scenario where there's a bunch of other animals around, to now your home and your family, and then all of a sudden you add in the extended family and all the relatives and all the neighbors and all the friends.

And that's fantastic. I mean that's what the holidays are all about, whether it's Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanzaa, whatever, it's about family and being together with people. But that can be overwhelming for a new pet. And similarly, if it's a kitten or a puppy, again, they've just left an environment where hopefully it was nourishing and they had their mom and their litter mates around, and they've come now to live with this human family they've got to figure out.

And now all of a sudden for a day or a long weekend or whatever it might be, that human family goes from one or two people or four people, to 30 people. That could be very overwhelming and it introduces a whole bunch of new risks.

Mia: It's overwhelming for me!

Dr. J: Yeah, I know, right. My stress level's rising already.

Mia: Yeah, all of that is very important to consider. Well, and also you just made me think of something else, because this is a stressful time for an animal that maybe has just been separated from their litter mates and their mom — that's really scary. And so just, even the initial bond may not be — I'm just thinking everybody has this super romantic awesome visual from movies where it's just like this immediate love fest, but it sometimes isn't and that can be stressful too, for everyone.

Does my dog love me? The adjustment period when you bring a new dog home.

Dr. J: Yeah, and that can have a lasting effect. Those first several days and weeks really are quite critical for allowing you and your new pet to bond and get to know each other, and really form a relationship that's gonna go on for several years hopefully.

And if that is stressed or kind of pushed to the limits too early, especially with a lot of visitors and socialization done incorrectly, not at the puppy or the kitten's pace, and perhaps a little bit more scary for them, that can really inhibit their social growth going forward both with you and the rest of your family and even friends, neighbors and other people and animals that they might meet out in the big scary world.

Mia: And I'm gonna go ahead and say definitely, children are a huge factor in that too.

How to introduce a puppy or adult dog to your children || 5 lessons all children should be taught about living with cats

Dr. J: Yes, definitely. Having two of my own, yes.

Mia: Well, it was actually surprising to me, but when Mazel was a kitten, Megan's nephew who I guess is my nephew now too, he came over and is just a lot of energy and Mazel got like, he panicked, he had a freak out. He was doing the panting breathe, the open-mouth breathing and hid the entire time. We had no idea that that would happen.

Dr. J: Yeah, and it could go anywhere from stress, all the way up to a bite or scratch that can happen to a child or an adult. And especially with cats, cats really don't do particularly well with stress and a lot of change, and oftentimes they manifest that, like you recognize that they're stressed, or should recognize that they're stressed, because they start peeing or pooping outside of the litter box, or they start vomiting, they stop eating, they're hiding.

7 quick signs that you might have a stressed out kitty

So, yeah, it can be a highly stressful time and event for them. But of course, like we're saying at the top of this, I don't want to discourage people from getting a new pet at the holidays. I want them to realize that it can actually be a fantastic time to do it.

Ideally people are just thinking about all the things they need to think about. They're aware of those things which we're going to hopefully increase awareness through this and there are some really good upsides to doing it at the holidays.

I would say probably one of the biggest is just that generally speaking, more people have off from work and/or school during the holidays. So you typically have more time if you schedule correctly and you're not going away traveling. You typically have more time around to start forming those bonds and start doing the training and the socialization.

How to socialize your new puppy and why it's important

Mia: Yeah. Get yourself set up for success in your new family member.

Dr. J: There's aspects of the whole festive nature of the holidays which you could consider cons and say there's a lot more stress, there's a lot more people, all these things. But there's also just something nice about, and again, it's emotional, there's something nice about, it's the holidays, you're adding a new family member, maybe you're getting a cat or a dog out of a shelter.

You're giving them a home at the holidays that's going to be their forever home. Now, of course, that's anthropomorphizing and saying that cats and dogs are sitting around looking at the calendar and going, oh, it's almost Christmas, I don't have a home. Or, Hanukkah is coming up, I don't have a home. They're not.

But there's something really nice about that too. And I think especially shelter workers and people who work in rescues, there's something really nice for them because they pour their heart and their soul into what they do. And so to know that more and more animals are going to be getting into homes at the holidays and getting the love and the forever homes that they need and that people are going to be getting the love from the pets around the holidays, there's something really nice about that.

Mia: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I feel like every day is a good day to introduce more animal love into your lives. But again, properly. So, before we get into some of the pros and tips for doing everything the right way or as right as possible, let's just first get it out there. Places to avoid getting your, your pet.

Dr. J: I would say definitely 100% I'd stay away from pet shops that sell cats and dogs. I mean fortunately there are more and more that are actually featuring cats and dogs rescued from local shelters or rescue organization. So that would be an exception, but generally, the puppies and kittens sold in pet stores probably more frequently come from puppy mills and disreputable sources more often than not. So I would avoid those, and those tend to be a lot more emotive. So if you're in a mall, I think malls still exists, right?

Mia: They do. I don't know if I've seen a puppy corner in a mall lately.

Dr. J: Yeah hopefully those don't. So, but you know what I mean. That's the type of thing you're walking by with your kid and they're like I want a puppy for the holidays. That's probably the first foray into a disaster. So, I would avoid those. I would avoid pet shops, Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, places like those.

Pet online marketplace red flags you should run away from

You can look, but I think the odds are pretty slim. So I think rescues, shelters, reputable breeders really are the places to go. And again, giving as much forethought, doing as much research as possible is crucially important.

Mia: Oh, absolutely. And in doing a little bit of research for this podcast, I came across a couple of really great articles going over some of what you should expect from a reputable rescue or shelter, things to look out for.

How to adopt a dog through breed-specific rescue groups

But also a couple of articles that are just really great, no-nonsense things to keep in mind before getting a dog. You may not want to think about or you may not think about immediately, but especially if you're somebody that hasn't owned a dog in a while or if you're getting a puppy, that's a completely different thing than getting an adult dog.

So just making sure that you have the patience and are prepared knowing like, ok I'm the one that's in charge of this animal right now. If you're getting it for your kid.

Dr. J: And also making sure that you've got the finances, because the holidays tend to sort of stretch people's finances thin, and cats and dogs will cost, on an annual basis, significantly more than most people are aware of, and even what a lot of articles out there talk about.

So really taking those things into consideration, that's based on size, breed, age, current medical conditions, area you live in, all of those things. Just really doing it right. I would say the biggest thing is that getting a new pet around the holidays or any time of year, it really just can't be an impulse decision. I guess theoretically it could be, but it really shouldn't be.

Mia: And I'll also just go ahead, since we're talking about the money part, I'm just going to give another shout out to pet insurance. It's important, if you're able to. I mean, I know that if you're gonna adopt a senior dog, sometimes that makes it a bit more expensive.

Dr. J: Yeah, well they'll have more preexisting conditions and same thing with senior cats, but it's the type of thing that everybody who's getting a new pet should at least consider and research. Talk to their veterinarian about, talk to friends and family who maybe have it. Not every pet insurance company is the same and some are definitely better than others.

And so that's important, and make sure you're getting the right plan and things of that nature. But you're right, it is definitely a consideration to have in mind and obviously, hopefully people that are listening know that we are typically very big proponents of pet insurance because it can make a huge difference for a lot of people and their pets and what they can do.

Mia: Yeah, absolutely. And I have learned that firsthand.

Dr. J: And I've seen it firsthand in the ER and it's wonderful when people don't have to really think about the financial aspect as much when they're making major treatment decisions. And it's heartbreaking when the opposite happens.

Mia: Yeah, absolutely. So let's get into the pros and the, well, we've already gone over a couple of pros but tips for doing it right. And of course, if you're doing this with kids, there's a whole other set of criteria that would make it "doing it right".

Dr. J: Yeah. Because I think it's such a common motivating factor for people getting pets at the holidays. They've got kids and the kids have been asking for them for a while and you know, the kids have achieved whatever milestone, their grades were good or they saved up, or whatever it is. So it's pretty common.

The one thing that I would say, and I love this idea just from the standpoint of doing it right and involving the kids from an age-appropriate level, is instead of actually getting a puppy or a kitten and putting the little red bow on them or wrapping them in a box — obviously with holes so they can breathe —just giving the kids a certificate or a basket.

Let's say you're going to get a puppy, you can get them a gift basket with a bunch of puppy items. Whether it be a bowl or some safe appropriate chew toys or a name tag that they can then have engraved or something like that.

And giving them a certificate to say like, okay, we are going to get a dog or we are going to get a cat, but we're not doing it today. Like we didn't go and get them and give them to you, and we want you to be involved.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Pre-Adoption Certificates

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Because it's nice to have the kids or whoever's getting the pet, whichever members of the family are going to be involved in caring for them, all be involved in the decision. So just some sort of certificate that you could give on that day of the holidays and say congratulations we're getting a cat or we're getting a dog a, but then you all go to the shelter, or you go to the breeder, and you select your pet together as a family.

Mia: Well, and some might say that the pet also helps select you.

Dr. J: Without a doubt. I mean especially, as a parent, like if you're thinking, okay, I'm going to get a pet for my kids and they're going to help with some of the care. And they, depending on their age, they very well might and might want to do all of it.

But if you're the one that goes to the shelter, you're the one that goes to the breeder, and you meet the pet and the pet is attracted to you and they bond to you, you're like, perfect, this is the one for our family. If they don't then also bond to your kids or your spouse, your significant other, well, now you're that much more likely to be doing all the work.

So if you can go as a family, however big that family is. I mean, you know, if you've got 30 kids, maybe go in waves to the shelter.

Mia: Who are you hanging out with?

Dr. J: I don't know. Thankfully nobody with 30 kids. I don't even know if there's vehicles large enough, I guess a school bus. But, really just doing that, involving everybody in the process, in an age appropriate manner, I think is great. And so having a certificate that you could just, kinda help spread that festive joy of the holidays, but not commit to a pet that maybe isn't gonna work for your family when all is said and done.

Mia: Yeah, that's a great idea. Actually the little gift basket that you were talking about, I did that exact same thing for Megan when I got her Mazel. I caught the whole reaction on video.

Dr. J: That's awesome. Just what a fun way to do it. That also then isn't gonna stress out the little living creature that you've just brought into the house. You get to celebrate and have your fun and then you get to go together and pick them out.

Mia: I mean, that's also a great tip in terms of like when you present your new cat or dog, puppy, kitten, you want it to be done in more of a relaxed setting.

Dr. J: Yeah. So I mean really having like, not right at the beginning, like when you're giving out presents on Christmas morning or on whichever night of Hanukkah you're going to be giving the pet, you really want to wait until it's a little bit more quiet.

So again, if it's Christmas morning, maybe you do it at the end of giving gifts. Maybe you have the cat or the dog over to the neighbor's house or you have a friend over that's upstairs holding onto the pet so that they're not involved in all the commotion down there. Just some way of making it as calm as possible.

Especially because the kids are going to be ecstatic when they get them. So there's going to be some energy and you really don't want your new pet's first experience with it all to be a terrifying, stressful one.

Mia: No, definitely not.

Dr. J: And that's really where their certificate comes into play, doing it later or doing it before the holidays so that they're already starting to get incorporated into the family. If it's a Christmas present, maybe the night before, so you do it Christmas Eve, maybe that's the one present they get Christmas Eve.

I mean, if you've got kids, you're gonna be getting up early for Christmas morning anyway, now you can get up earlier and take the puppy out or scoop the kitten's litter box. So there's ways to do it and something is gonna work differently for every family and every situation and every person. So really just having a think about what's gonna work best, for you and your family. And your new pet and existing pets.

Mia: Oh yes.

Dr. J: Lest we forget, several people have more than one pet, so that's another thing to take into consideration.

How to introduce your new dog or puppy to the other pets in your family

Mia: Yeah, absolutely. Moving into more of like tips for doing this the right way. And again, this is for the holidays, but also this can be applied to any time. You've got to have an action plan, and I would also say making sure that you have a good amount of the starting supplies.

And this may change over time, especially like with cats, litter boxes are really important and they're not necessarily just going to use the one that you have put out there for them. Same as the litter, so you may want to experiment.

How to choose the right type of litter for your cat

Dr. J: I think what's best is having a bunch of these things in place, having these things available before you bring the pet home, whether that's at the holidays or not. And of course the extra consideration at the holidays if you go out and you get a new pet and then your plan is to go out on Christmas Day and get the supplies, well the stores are probably going to be closed end. Even if they're not, they're probably going to be really crowded. So save yourself the trouble and help your pet settle in as best as possible by having a lot of these things in place first.

Help your new pet settle in more easily: Puppy shopping list || Kitty shopping list

I think it's great to be prepared. And also, starting to figure out what the rules are of the house. Starting to figure out, are the dogs going to be allowed up on the furniture?

Making sure that everyone knows, and this isn't even up for debate, start making sure everyone knows not to give table scraps to your new cat and the new dog. I mean, you're really asking for problems, especially around the holidays, when a lot of what we eat is very fatty, very highly seasoned, maybe has bones.

You're less likely to be spending Christmas Eve at home hanging out with your family or your new pet and more likely to be spending it at the local animal ER dealing with digestive upset or even worse. So just starting to make those kind of rules of the house known, and really starting to think about them. So really preparing as much as possible.

Mia: Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head in terms of getting everybody on the same exact page. Because when it comes to training and getting your new pet used to your home, if everybody's doing different things, it's going to be really confusing for the animal. And it's not their fault, it's yours.

Dr. J: Yeah, it really is. It's about our pets learning about us as much as it is us learning about them, and really kind of meeting in the middle in several respects.

Mia: So having the action plan and the rules of the house for when you originally bring the new dog or cat home is great. Also making sure that, and you touched upon this early on in the podcast, making sure that your post-holiday plans and schedule are gonna align correctly.

And I would go even further and say, why not start looking around for a trustworthy sitter, or walker? Not necessarily for a kitty, although that would be good to know about for when you do end up needing to travel.

How to find the right dog walker || Finding a boarding facility or pet sitter for dogs || Finding a barding facility or pet sitter for cats

Dr. J: And a vet. Maybe you don't have a vet, it's been a while since you've had a pet, so you're going to need a new vet, or you've moved. Having a vet picked out before, and actually even meeting that vet and their team and chatting with them about what type of pet might be best for your family situation and what things to consider. Especially if you're considering like a pure breed, just to know what they might be at higher risk for, and tips of how to find them, and maybe they even know some breeders in town or locally that can help you narrow down your search.

So involving your vet early is fantastic. I'm obviously biased being one myself, but you know, we are a wealth of information and we really do want to help. Similarly, talking to a trainer. If you're getting a puppy, have a trainer lined up and know that they're scheduled for socialization classes and they'll have availability when your puppy is ready.

When to start socializing your new puppy

So those things are really are important. And then pet proofing, lest we forget. Me specifically. 

Mia: Only one of the most important things.

Dr. J: Yeah, given the whole Preventive Vet angle. Pet proofing is really important to think about and your vet may also have some additional tips as well.

10 point checklist for puppy proofing your home || Top 10 pet proofing tips for cats and kittens

Mia: Well, and I'm just gonna throw it out there. I know that I'm maybe biased since I work for Preventive Vet, but if you are thinking about getting a new dog or cat, I really think that the books that you wrote, Jason, 101 Essential Tips, they really are essential. It's so important and it saves lives, it saves money, it saves a ton of the heartbreak, of guilt.

10 Essential Tips eBook

Dr. J: I would go as far as saying you don't work for Preventive Vet, you are part of Preventive Vet, and not just because you said something nice about the books. That kind of drives my passion and seeded the idea for Preventive Vet. And I appreciate that. And, I obviously, again, I'm biased, but I agree. 

And even if you're not bringing a new pet into your home, if you know friends and family that are getting a new pet, really help them start off on the right paw and avoid problems. Help them prepare with a copy of the book, or books, depending on which pets they're getting.

And I will also say, because I love our illustrator, Chuck Gonzales, shout out to him, many people have told us that the illustrations are fantastic and fun and they make the book that much more kid friendly. Especially because they're little bite size chunks of tips.

So we've heard from people that have gotten the book and said they read a few tips every night with the kids. And some people have actually gotten the books for the kids so they can learn how to take care of the pets and that was one of the conditions before they even get a pet.


Mia: I love that idea. Yeah,

Dr. J: I'm psyched, I mean it's making the differences that the books are designed to do. And so thank you for saying that and bringing it up.

Mia: Well absolutely, because, I love my job, but I do cry here a lot of the times, when the comments start coming in about bad things. It's awful, it's heartbreaking, but the one thing that makes it all worth it is knowing that we're here trying to spreading awareness and prevention.

Dr. J: Well on that note...Actually here is a fun one because this is one that springs up every year at the holidays and it's always just a fun one to debunk. A lot of people talk about and think about Poinsettias around Christmas, around the holidays, being a huge problem. They're actually not.


Poinsettias are mostly ok for the animals, but you should be worried about the mistletoe

They're actually not. It's not like I'd go around chopping them up and putting them in your cat or dog food, but, generally speaking, a little bit of exposure will produce some mild digestive upset. But really nothing compared to the issues that still spring up, even around Christmas holidays, with true lilies and cats. Those can be highly dangerous.

Keep lilies away from cats

And a lot of the foods that we eat, whether it be the turkey or the ham, where the bones can cause digestive upset and even obstruction. The stuff we bake, whether it be with chocolate or if you're going ketogenic, sugar-free, low carb with Xylitol. Hopefully everyone who's listening to this is already heard us go on and on and on about the dangers of Xylitol to dogs.

Mia: If not, check out our last podcast.

Dr. J: Yes, exactly. And if you have the book, you've already seen the tips on it. So I just think it's always fun to say you can allow poinsettias back into your home if you've got pets, because they are really kind of beautiful and festive and not terribly expensive. The poinsettias, not the pets. Pets are beautiful and awesome, but they can be expensive.

Mia: Yeah. Regardless of whether or not they're free, they're never free. Okay, so we've just gone into some of the common holiday hazards, although debunked one of them. I think one of the things that people don't really think about is not just — you mentioned highly seasoned, but specifically a lot of the times our stuff is cooked with onion and garlic, and that's the really dangerous stuff too, that you just wouldn't even think about because it's not necessarily on the chicken or the turkey that you're eating.

Dr. J: Right, exactly. And onions and garlic and chives can actually cause pretty serious destruction of an animal's red blood cells. So it's called hemolytic anemia. It's one of the causes of it and it's dose dependent. So if they lick something that's got a little bit of garlic powder, it's not going to be the end of the world. But certainly some people might have onion rings around this time, or you know, just a lot of garlic in your mashed potatoes. I like a lot of garlic. I mean, I grew up in an Italian family, so I like a lot of garlic in just about everything. So that can be quite dangerous.

Grapes, raisins and currants can cause kidney failure in some dogs. We don't know which dogs, we don't even know what it is about them exactly that can cause the problem, but we know that it can happen. So, oatmeal raisin cookies around this time of year, the cheese plate with the grapes.

Some people still eat fruit cake. I shouldn't say it that way because there are some really great fruit cakes in terms of rum soaked ones, from over in England and Scotland and stuff like that. So yeah, just some things to be aware of.

Tinsel on the tree.

Mia: The tree itself.

Dr. J: The tree itself. More for cats. The needles from the tree, those can be problems. The lights that are wrapped around. The electric cords, things of that nature.

You had touched on one earlier, as far as house guests, a lot of stress there. And with more and more areas now, and I'll go on the record saying thankfully, legalizing marijuana, that becomes a much bigger problem for pets because THC in marijuana can have some very significant effect on pets.

It can be really scary for people. So being aware that people bring in all kinds of hazards in their purses, their jackets, things of that nature. So hang those up on the wall hooks.

Mia: Even gum.

Dr. J: Even gum, yeah, totally, Xylitol. So hanging purses, jackets and stuff like that on sturdy coat racks, are in closets, or in rooms with closed doors, that can be very important. Speaking about closing doors, holidays there's a lot of people coming and going.

So doors being opened and closed and pets getting out that shouldn't be getting out, or having their tail or their paw or their heads closed in doors. So just being really aware of what the holidays bring in terms of additional hazards, and thinking about, again, coming back to the action plan. So that's obviously even for people who aren't just getting a new pet, that's if you've got existing pets.

Mia: Talking about the action plan and having everybody on board, something that I have is, I make these very long, illustrated notes for our babysitters when we leave. But any time a new person comes to our place, I also hand them the rules for Marshall and Mazel.

Because I've gotten very upset in the past, and not that anybody is trying to do anything wrong, but a lot of people don't know it is. I've had people where I have told them specifically not to feed Marshall any people food. But then they'll go ahead and still do it and then I get really angry. I know that they're not doing it in order to be mean or go against me necessarily. But it's important to let them know, hey, you don't know what's necessarily good for my dog.

Dr. J: Right. Also, I mean there's a lot of cultures, I mean I'm Italian and Jewish, so two cultures that believe very strongly that food is love.

Mia: Yeah, I was raised on that!

Dr. J: Unfortunately it is also part of their problem of why we have such an obesity problem with our pets because it's not really love. Love is love. Food is really nice, especially if it's prepared well. But so people do it out of the goodness of their own heart and it's the holidays and stuff.

But I've seen the other side. Like you said, you got frustrated and you get angry when people do it. I've actually seen the other side of the ER where dogs come in with raging pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can go anywhere from just mild digestive upset to fatal.

So you see dogs come in with pancreatitis because somebody fed them table scraps from the turkey or something like that. And now they're in the hospital, in the ICU for several days and it's costing several thousand dollars and they're painful.

So really, I love that idea of giving them the rules. And one of the things I suggest to people, if they have frequent visitors, whether it be the holidays or not, in your guest room where people stay, just have a list of things that you'd ask them to do. So keeping the door closed to the guest room, if they're not going to unpack their suitcase or their toiletry bag, keep that up off the ground.

Maybe close the door to the bathroom, as long as the cat's litter box isn't in there, of course. Just decreasing the pet's access to these new sources of potential hazards and toxins. Don't just come in and throw your purse or your backpack on the ground or on the back of a chair. Again, hang it in a closet or a sturdy coat rack or wall hook. Just all these things that'll help you enjoy the holidays at home with your family and friends as opposed to rushing to the ER and spending potentially thousands of dollars there.

Mia: Yeah nobody wants that.

Dr. J: No, not even those of us who work in the emergency rooms.

Mia: I was gonna say, you'd probably rather be incredibly bored.

Dr. J: Well, we don't deal well with boredom, but there's always stuff to clean as plenty of hospital managers would say. But it's also heartbreaking when people come in and now they're already stressed from a time-money standpoint and now they're stressed because their pet's in pain and they're going to have to spend a lot more money. And especially when it was something that was avoidable.

It is heartbreaking and we would like to get out at least at the end of our shift to be able to go home and see our family and friends as opposed to writing up hours worth of records on preventable cases.

But we do it because we're the stopgap. So shout out to all of the technicians, especially the doctors and the front house staff and everyone at the animal emergency rooms that are open. And general practice hospitals that are open around the holidays. It's important that they be there.

So if you've got the ability, bring them some snacks. Ideally nothing with Xylitol and no flowers containing lilies, because there's lots of cats there. One thing I forgot to mention earlier when we were talking about where to get pets, with the cold weather and also just the season of giving, if you are going to get a pet from a shelter, even if you're not, if you have blankets, towels, pet beds, food, making some donations to your local shelter or rescue.

Or if you've got an organization like here in Portland, we've got an amazing organization called Portland Animal Welfare Team, Paw Team, that help people with limited incomes on fixed incomes, people that are homeless or houseless, that have pets.

I mean this is such a great time to just kind of share the wealth and make those donations of things that places need. Obviously call them first and ask if they need a bunch of blankets or towels, because you don't want to inundate them with stuff they don't need or have the space for. But more often than not, there's plenty of shelters, rescues, and organizations that help out animals this time of year that do need. And maybe that's even financial donations. Again, if it's within your means,

Mia: That's a great idea. And I love that you brought that up. Thank you. All right, well there's a million tips to doing it right; we are not by any means done. But I'll do my best to link to some of our other articles that would probably come in handy when it comes to getting a new puppy, for example, helping your new puppy sleep through the night

Dr. J: I think with our goal with this podcast really was just to let people know that it is okay, and sometimes it's actually preferable and ideal, to get a new pet at the holidays, and you can even do it as a gift for your kids. But there are better ways to do it and they all require a lot of thought and hopefully those who decide to do it, will do it well and enjoy their new cat or dog or hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, rabbit, whatever you get, hopefully they'll enjoy them and they'll be happy and healthy and safe for many, many years.

Mia: Amen to that brother.

Dr. J:  And happy holidays everybody.

Mia: Yes, happy holidays everybody! Well, awesome. This has been a lot of information and I'm sure that we will be coming back to a lot of the ideas that were presented in today's show. And if you all have any questions, for our audience, for our listeners, if you have any questions about this or even experiences that you'd like to share with us, we'd love to hear from you. You can send us an email at connect@preventivevet.com and you can also fill out one of our comment forms on our blog posts at preventivevet.com/pawsandplay where you can also listen to the archives of our shows. Have we left anything out, Dr. J? 

Dr. J: I think we've touched all the bases.

Mia: All right, sounds good. Well, thanks again for all of your wonderful knowledge and I'll be hearing you after the holidays.

Dr. J: Sounds good. All right. Everyone take care.

Topics: Cat Health, Dog Safety, Dog Health, Cat Safety, New Kitten, holiday pet safety tips, Cat Tips, puppy proofing, adult dog tips, puppy tips, paws and play, common products toxic to dogs

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Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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