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Tips For Helping Kids And Pets Enjoy The Holidays Together

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! This month is super busy for many of us, with all of those festive seasonal get-togethers to prepare for. For many kids, the holiday season is the highlight of the year. Children and pets make an adorable combination, and can become very close. However, it’s important to take a few precautions to help things go smoothly. Read on for some tips on this from Hassayampa Veterinary Services, serving Wickenburg and the surrounding communities.

Introducing Kids To Dogs And Cats

Some things we’ll discuss here will vary a little, depending on whether these are your children and your pets, your children and someone else’s pets, or your pets and somebody else’s kids. With the latter two, introductions are a big deal. 

First impressions are extremely important to our four-legged friends! Dogs and cats both get much of their information about the world through their cute noses. If the kids are small enough to still need strollers or car seats, let Fido smell those first. Then, allow your pup to sniff the little ones’ hands. Keep a close eye on things here. If Fido seems uneasy or agitated, separate the two. Don’t punish your pooch for acting nervous: that will only make matters worse.  One thing that will help is to tire your furry pal out with a vigorous play session before company arrives, so they’ll be calmer.

As for cats, well, Fluffy will introduce herself when she’s ready. Don’t force it! (Note: One of the first things children should learn about cats is the fact that you can never force them  to do anything, except perhaps by telling them not to.) 

General Safety Tips For Kids And Pets

Safety should always come first here. The most important thing is to carefully monitor all interactions. Never leave kids and pets unattended, at least until you’re sure that things will be fine. 

Some of this of course depends on the pet and the kid. If your cat wants to sleep in your eight-year old’s lap as they’re reading, it’s probably safe to say you have a cute moment on your hands, rather than a safety risk. A large, intact male dog interacting with a toddler is a very different situation, and one that would need extremely careful monitoring. Use your judgment.  

Dogs are the bigger safety risk here, though kitties can still cause injuries with those sharp claws. Children can also harm smaller animals by holding or picking them up wrong. (They can also cause injuries by falling on them, though there really aren’t many foolproof ways to prevent that.)

It’s important to note that children are more often bitten by dogs than adults. This is likely due to their smaller size and their tendency to move quickly and make loud/high-pitched noises, which can unsettle our canine pals.

Big dogs of course pose a bigger risk than small ones. However, at the end of the day, it’s really Fido’s personality that matters most. Some pups are bombproof, and will barely bat an eye if a little one falls right on top of them or uses them as a pillow. Other pooches are more high-strung, and have much shorter fuses. However, even the sweetest dog can bite if they feel threatened, and even a Chihuahua bite can result in injury.

If you know or suspect that Fido  is fearful, reactive, and/or aggressive, you should take extra precautions. We also recommend being super careful with newly adopted pups, as you may not be familiar with their pet peeves and quirks yet. For more information, speak with your Wickenburg, AZ veterinarian.

How To Safely Decorate For The Holidays With Kids And Pets

Petproofing and childproofing are very similar.  Anything small and sharp should be considered a choking hazard. Ropy or stringy items are also a hazard. That includes items such as tinsel, garlands, popcorn strings, lights, and ribbons should be avoided. Other dangerous items include fragile ornaments, plastic bags and ties, and many seasonal plants, such as holly, ivy, and mistletoe.

Fire is another concern. Keep candles in high, secure spots, out of reach of paws and small hands. If you have a fireplace, use a thick grate in front of it.

We also recommend that people with toddlers and/or pets decorate the tree carefully. Don’t put anything small or fragile on the lower branches. Ornaments that are shiny and/or breakable should be at the top, along with anything with strings or ropes. To be on the safe side, it’s also a good idea to cover the water bowl. (We’ll save Fluffy’s annual tradition of climbing the tree for another blog.)

Keep Kids And Pets’ Things Separated

Small items like action figures, batteries, small accessories, toy cars, and other tiny things can be choking hazards for pets and small children. If you have a dog, you’ll also need to be cautious with stuffed animals. Our canine companions love plushie toys. You could end up with a ruckus if Fido hones in on your niece’s new teddy bear! It’s also a good idea to distract your four-legged pal by offering a few new toys for them to occupy themselves with.

Seasonal Foods

While those seasonal feasts can be the star of festive gatherings, they may also pose a danger. Things like hard candies, nuts, and your aunt’s infamous fruitcake can be choking hazards for kids and pets.  However, for the most part, our furry pals are at higher risk here. Many popular foods, including chocolate, avocado, grapes, garlic, onion, and raisins, are poisonous to Fido and Fluffy. Other things that aren’t safe for pets include meat on the bone, raw dough, anything with seeds or pips, and items that contain Xylitol (also sometimes called birch sugar) or salt, sugar, or fat.

One concern here is the fact that kids may try to share ‘goodies’ with their furry pals, often without realizing what is and isn’t safe for them. This innocent mistake may lead to tragic results. Keep a close eye on things at mealtimes.

Encourage Good Manners

Good manners are important on both sides here. Make sure that Fido knows basic commands like Sit, Stay, and Come. Children can be taught to gently offer a treat, but they may need to be shown how to hold it properly. For our canine buddies, that means palms up, fingers outstretched. For cats, you can usually just put it down before Fluffy. 

Children may need to be taught that you should never force attention on Fluffy and Fido. You may need to explain that you should always go in the direction of their fur when petting them, and to never, ever pull their tails, ears, or whiskers. 

Make sure that your furry buddies have a comfortable place to retreat to. For a cat, this could be a kitty condo or a spot under the bed. For Fido, this could be a crate or a pet proofed room separated by a gate. 

Don’t forget to take photos! Kids and pets can make wonderful playmates, and both benefit from the friendship. Just err on the side of caution. 

We wish you all a wonderful holiday season! If you have any questions about your pet’s health or care, please feel free to contact us here at Hassayampa Veterinary Services PLLC, serving Wickenburg and the surrounding communities.

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