Urbana, Ill. (WCIA)

The holidays are upon us, and we are talking about how you can avoid having your pet in the ER by following some simple guidelines about food-sharing (and food stealing), holiday stressors (like lots of visitors), and pet-proof decorations. Dr. Canaan Shores, head of the Urgent and Convenient Care Service for dogs and cats at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine South Clinic, has tips for pet owners who are making big plans to celebrate, whether they are traveling or hosting.

Traveling with Pets

· Pack an adequate supply of your pet’s medication or supplement.
· Scout locations of veterinarians, especially emergency practices, close to where you’ll be staying.
· Find out if other pets will be present where you’re going and make a plan to be sure the animals are introduced safely and have options for staying apart if they do not get along.
· If your pet may benefit from medication to ease the stress of travel, ask your veterinarian’s advice in advance.


· Make sure your pet has all the necessary vaccinations and tests (fecal, heartworm) needed to board.
· Book your pet’s spot well in advance and tour the facility if you have not boarded there before.

Many people believe that cats are self-sufficient and don’t require daily care and attention. They will leave cats home alone for an extended period, just putting out extra food, water, and a litter box. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Shores, these people often come home to sick or injured cats. He advises hiring a pet sitter to stay with the cat or at least check on the cat several times per day. It is helpful to have someone the cat is familiar with, or at least someone with an understanding of normal cat behavior. Cats can be boarded as well. He recommends discussing this with the cat’s veterinarian, as there are supplements and/or medications that can be used to help reduce stress.

· Hosting can be stressful for you, and even worse for a pet that is not accustomed to company! Create a safe space where your pet can have alone time as needed.

· Pay particular attention when your pet is introduced to unfamiliar children or other pets to be sure there are no negative encounters. The ER often sees bite wounds related to pets and holiday gatherings.

· Remember to give your pet plenty of exercise time, which is a great stress buster.

Holiday Feasting

· Whether you stay at home or visit others, please remember that “people food” is not a good treat for pets. The fatty and rich foods we enjoy can cause serious problems for pets, from life-threatening pancreatitis to stomach upset and vomiting to obesity.

· Keep your pet’s diet the same and show your love with extra pets and play time.