Here’s one thing your pet secretly wants for the holidays: Routine

If your pets could write a holiday wish list, it might go like this:

  1. I would like my usual food at the usual time in the usual place.
  2. I would like to spend time with you.

So veterinarians at BluePearl Veterinary Partners are urging pet owners this holiday season to keep dogs and cats in their normal daily routines as much as possible, while still making sure to enjoy the fun of the season.

We humans love everything that makes the holidays special – the latest toys, the newest recipes, the relatives we don’t usually get to see. But all the different schedules, foods and people can actually be quite stressful to pets – and even make them physically ill.

“Make sure that you pay attention to their everyday routine and work that into your plans,” said Dr. Jesse Bullock. “For example, you don’t want to leave your dog inside for 12 hours while you’re out with friends.”

Here are three helpful tips on how to make sure your normal holiday activities don’t lead to disruptions and problems for your pets.

Leave your cat’s living space intact, if possible

When multiple relatives come over to stay for a week, you may need to make room by rearranging furniture. “But that can take away your cat’s favorite hiding place, or favorite resting place, or it might mean they can’t look out the window anymore,” said Bullock said.

Cats feel stress from these changes and “the stress triggers inflammation,” Bullock said. Inflammation in the urinary tract can create blockages, which require immediate veterinary attention.

So invite the relatives over, but try to keep your cat’s special resting place intact, or consider using a different room where all those relatives would still be comfortable.

Don’t completely change your pet’s diet

Sure, you’re only sneaking one piece of Thanksgiving turkey to Fido, but that’s what the other   13 family members said. All of a sudden, your dog has eaten so much fatty or sweet food that he has developed pancreatitis – a common affliction of pets in BluePearl emergency rooms around the holidays.

So stick to your pet’s regular food. But wouldn’t your pet like a few special treats? Of course! After the whole family has dinner, reward your pets with a few store-bought or homemade treats, without overdoing it. If you’re wondering about healthy holiday treats for your dog, read this helpful article.

Also, stay away from these foods that can be toxic to pets: Chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, caffeine, alcohol, yeast dough. Don’t let your dog eat bones from the turkey and be careful about other bones as well. And be especially cautious of any sugar-free gum or low-fat foods that contain the sweetener xylitol, which is incredibly toxic to dogs. No one feeds gum to their dogs, but dogs will help themselves to just about anything left lying around.

Don’t go AWOL on your pets:

Has your holiday shopping trip “for just a few things” ever lasted 8 hours? That’s an eternity to some pets who are left alone. Consider hiring a pet-sitter if you know you’ll be gone for a long time, so your pets get a walk or play time.

If you keep all these things in mind, we think everyone in your house will have a great holiday season — and avoid a trip to the animal ER.

But if emergencies do happen remember that most BluePearl hospitals are open 24/7 with veterinarians always on duty – even on Thanksgiving, Christmas and every day of Hanukkah.