Where do your pets fit in with your holiday plans?

Veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson shares some helpful tips to keep in mind for you and your pet during the holidays. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/kandypix)

The year is hurtling to its end, and with it, weeks of holiday festivities can mean gatherings, traveling and indulgent feasts. But as you make plans for yourself and your human counterparts, don’t forget about your pets.

Veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson shares some helpful tips to keep in mind for you and your pet during the holidays.

Holiday travel: Pets are staying home

So, you’ve booked your tickets to leave the D.C. area, but your furry friend is staying home. Who’s looking after Mr. Fuzzy while you’re gone?

Nelson said if you’re deciding between a pet sitter and a pet boarding facility, check to see which makes the most sense for your budget. For example, if you have multiple pets, a pet sitter may work better, Nelson said.

If you’re going with a pet boarding facility, make sure you get a chance to visit the place beforehand. “I think you would definitely want to tour a day care if your children were going to be there, so it’s basically the same thing,” Nelson said.

Pet parents should meet with the people who’ll be taking care of their loved ones and see the space where they’ll be running around while you’re away.

If you’re using a pet sitter, Nelson said it’s important to figure out whether that sitter is staying overnight, or if you’ll need to arrange for care during the day as well.

And, of course, vet your sitter. “Just because someone’s a dog person and a great guy, your pet might not automatically gel with them, so you want to make sure that if you’re going to be gone for a while, that both the person staying there as well as your pets are comfortable together,” she said.

If you’re going with a boarding facility, did you remember to bring your pet to its veterinarian before dropping it off?

“Getting their vaccines updated now before they go to those facilities is a great idea, to give their immune system a little bit of time to build up and be ready for any of those challenges that come along,” Nelson said. Your pet is going to be in close quarters with a lot of other pets, and like a day care, illnesses can spread easily, she added.

And if you want to pack treats and toys for your pet, check with the facility if that’s OK because some places will provide those items.

If you’re going with a sitter, make sure you’ve already picked up your pet’s prescriptions and have extra, just in case you get home later than planned. Also, make sure there’s enough food for your pet while your away.

Holiday travel: Your pet is going with you

“If you’re going state to state, you’re going to need a health certificate, and that’s going to need to be within 10 days of travel,” Nelson said. If you’re leaving Thanksgiving week, now’s the time to get that done. Check out the website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to learn more about international and domestic travel with your pet.

Nelson added that if you’re taking your pet on a road trip, don’t leave your pet alone in the vehicle, and make sure they’re properly restrained while you’re driving.

It helps to also bring your pet’s medical records from the last year or two, just in case you run into any emergencies. That way, you can give more accurate information about your pet’s health instead of vague anecdotes.

Holiday eating and gatherings

Sure, no one asked you if you wanted that fourth serving of mashed potatoes, but hey, you ate it and you don’t regret it. Your pet, however, should definitely not be following your example.

If you’re tossing turkey skin, pie crust, or even loaded potatoes down to your pet, that could spell bad news.

“All of those can be a high fat load for a pet and can cause some issues with their digestive tract, whether it’s simple things like vomiting and diarrhea … all the way up to pancreatitis, which is definitely the worse and can require hospitalization,” Nelson said.

And, with a house packed with people, where’s the best place for your pet?

“I think it 100% depends on your pet,” Nelson said.

Even if your pet is social, all pets would benefit from a space of their own, she said.

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