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Best gift for pets? A little planning

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but make sure that's true for Fluffy and Fido, too


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Murray, the beloved canine companion of Banfield Pet Hospital's Dr. Kristin Deeder, is all dressed up and ready for the holiday season. Families and friends are gathering in festively decorated homes this week to celebrate the holidays with food, drink and lively conversation. It’s a happy, joyous time of year — unless you’re a dog or cat.

“Holiday time increases stress and worry for pets, with all of the noise, crowds and the unfamiliar people around,” says Dr. Kristin Deeder, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Lake Oswego, who adds that Fluffy and Fido are nothing if not creatures of habit.

Holiday festivities can mess up pets’ schedules, Deeder says, and they often respond by doing something drastic.

“There is the risk of pets escaping,” Deeder says. “More pets are reported missing during the holiday season than at any other time of the year.”

Deeder, who herself owns a dog named Murray, says there are plenty of ways for owners to keep their pets happy during the hustle and bustle of holiday celebrations.

“Set aside a quiet space for them with their bed and food. Keep up their schedules. Don’t break with their routines of mealtime and bedtime,” Deeder says. “Keep your doors closed so your pet can’t run away. Make sure your dog or cat is microchipped, because the first thing (veterinarians) do with an animal is scan for a chip.”

Deeder says it’s also important to make sure your house is pet-friendly during the holidays. Most people know that chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and cats, but other common ingredients for holiday meals can also be dangerous for pets:

-- Onions, leeks, garlic and chives can damage red blood cells and lead to anemia;

-- Macadamia nuts can cause staggering, depression, vomiting, muscle tremors, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), weakness and an elevated heart rate;

-- Turkey bones easily splinter into sharp pieces that can lodge in throats or intestines, causing punctures or blockages; and

-- Raisins and grapes can result in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weakness, dehydration and shivering — and in rare cases, kidney failure.

Partygoers often toast the holidays with an adult beverage or two, but alcohol consumption can cause a host of problems for pets, from depression and difficulty breathing to comas and even death. Most alcohol ingestion occurs as a result of animals drinking from unattended glasses, according to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, but alcohol toxicity can also occur if dogs eat unbaked bread dough. The yeast in the bread dough ferments in the stomach and releases alcohol ethanol.

Away from the kitchen, holiday decorations can also have Grinch-like results.

“Don’t have any mistletoe, holly or poinsettias. They’re poisonous for pets. Cats like to eat poinsettias, and that can poison them,” Deeder says. “Be sure electrical cords are kept out of the way. Make sure the water in your Christmas tree stand is fresh and has no preservatives.”

Be careful about your tree ornaments, too, Deeder says.

“Cats especially like tinsel,” she says, “but it can possibly block their intestines.”

The key, Deeder and other animal experts say, is to keep your pets in mind when planning for the holidays —and that includes the decision to give a new dog or cat (or hamster, turtle, pony, etc.) as a gift.

“You have to use caution,” Deeder says. “Giving a pet as a Christmas gift is not something you take lightly. You’ve got to ask if your family is ready for a pet, especially if you have small children. You’ve got to ask if the holidays is the right time to bring a pet into the home. You need to make sure you’re ready for the financial obligation of owning a pet.”

In other words, she says, don’t run out and buy the first adorable puppy that you see.

“Do research about buying a pet and find out what works,” Deeder says. Or consider another idea: Give a stuffed animal to symbolize a pet or a gift certificate to a local shelter that can be used later.

That way, the gift recipient can also play a role in bringing home their new best friend when the frenetic pace of the holidays is just another happy memory.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..