Holidays can be stressful for all, including pets

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By LIAM JACKSON
Capital News Service

LANSING – If your dog throws up her Thanksgiving dinner on that brand-new carpet, don’t blame her.

Instead, remember to include her in the plans for your next holiday gathering.

“Pets are used to a routine,” said Nora Wineland, the state veterinarian for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “So giving them something that is not part of their routine is generally not a great idea.”

Keeping your meals from pets, making sure pets are properly identified in case they run away and finding a safe, stress-free area for them to relax while company visits are measures that the department recommends for keeping your pet safe over the holidays.

A pet’s routine may be thrown off when its owners host Thanksgiving or travel to other gatherings. 

“There are a lot of situations where maybe pets aren’t used to visitors,” Wineland said. “A holiday brings visitors in, and that can be very stressful for pets.” 

Stressed pets in unfamiliar environments can cause animal control officers to step in due to unwanted problems during what should be happy gatherings, said Tim Pluger, the deputy animal control officer in Oceana County.

“I’d say more than running loose, we see dog bites,” Pluger said. “A lot of people coming into the house can stress out a dog that might not be used to it.” 

Hosts of gatherings who have pets that are easily bothered by visitors and loud conversations should find a quiet room in the house where the pet can stay, Wineland said. Stock the room with food, water and other necessities.

Or consider boarding your pet. 

“We are not completely booked,” said John Cotten, owner of Cotten’s Sunset Kennels in Ludington, which boards animals for the holidays. “But we are busy.”

And if the pets aren’t stressed, he is. Thanksgiving at Cotten’s house is filled with work and a family gathering of his own.

“My family is very understanding,” Cotten said. “They know that I’ve got to be taking care of dogs. I have dogs checking in and out on Thanksgiving Day.”

On top of merely watching dogs, Cotten trains the dogs that stay with him. The training helps keep the pets away from food or trash that make them sick and keepa people from enjoying their Thanksgiving meal.

“We teach a command called ‘place,’” Cotten said. “So the dogs hang out in one spot and have to think about staying there. They are not locked away, they are part of the family, but they are not getting into trouble.”

Throughout the course of a holiday gathering, people may not be paying close attention to a pet, and someone’s dog or cat may sneak out, Wineland warns. In this scenario, a way of identifying that pet and its owners is important.

“They can easily get lost,” Wineland said. “Having identification and having a microchip allows them to be scanned by a local humane society or at a veterinary clinic and get them back home again and reunited with their owner.”