Winter and the holidays go hand in hand. It’s an exciting time for everyone, cats and dogs included. Here are two lists that will help pet owners and their pets survive and enjoy this special time of the year.

For Cold Weather:

As the winter months approach, pet owners might consider getting their pets suited up to enjoy the colder weather. Sandy Golding, the director of development at St. Francis Animal Hospital, offers a few vital tips for helping your pet have a safe and exciting winter.

  • Keep Pets Comfortable

It’s important to keep pets inside during the colder months, especially during freezing temperatures. Cats and dogs are especially susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Although, a pet’s tolerance to cold weather is ultimately based on age, coat and body fat, it’s important to make needed adjustments to keep them comfortable throughout the winter months. This might include dressing them in a dry sweater if your pet has a shorter coat or appears to get cold easily. Golding suggests having a few sweaters on hand to provide your pet a dry one each time they go outside.

  • Properly Prep their Outdoor Area

If you must keep your pet outdoors for a lengthier part of the day, make sure their area is properly outfitted. A warm, dry environment is a must. This includes a solid shelter to block wind and a thick, dry bed. Golding also suggests raising your pet’s shelter off the ground to reduce heat loss. Another important element is giving your pet unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water. If you won’t be around to change it out regularly, consider purchasing a heated water bowl.

  • Practice Healthy Dieting

It’s important to keep your pets at a healthy weight throughout the year. During the winter, outdoor pets require more calories to help generate enough body heat. Golding suggests speaking to your veterinarian about your pet’s dietary needs to stay healthy during the colder months. Additionally, the holidays usually brings around an abundance of seasonal treats. Keep these in areas your pets cannot access. Ingesting some of these goodies (with onions, xylitol and chocolate in the ingredients) are potentially toxic.

  • Clean Hazardous Spills

Antifreeze is a common household item, especially during the colder months However, pet-owners should practice extreme caution when handling this liquid around pets. This is because antifreeze is lethal to cats and dogs. Which is why quickly and thoroughly cleaning a spill is completely necessary. Because antifreeze can be absorbed into the floor, Golding recommends using kitty litter to soak up the immediate spill and following it with a vigorous scrub with soap and water. All this should be done with gloves while your pet is confined away from the area.

For the Holidays:

The hustle and bustle of holiday season is fast approaching. All the great food and decorations help truly make this a special time of the year, but what about your pets? Amy Dengler, Animal Behavior Manger and Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) of Jacksonville Humane Society lists some foods and holiday household items that are toxic to your beloved pets:

  • Christmas Tree Water

If you opt for a real tree this season, make sure you use a covered tree stand or a buy one of these. Over time, Christmas trees emit sap and toxins from fertilizers into the water, and this could mean bad business if your pet were to get to it.

  • Holly and Mistletoe

These quintessential holiday plants carry a great toxicity level that when ingested could cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains. If you plan to have these around for decorations, make sure they are well out of your pet’s reach.

  • Poinsettias and Lillies

While the poisoning factor of the poinsettia is relatively low, pet-owners should still consider it’s side effects of itching, vomiting and drooling. Cats are particularly susceptible to the lily’s poisonous effects. Consuming any amount of this popular holiday flower could result in severe gastrointestinal problems and kidney failure.

  • Tinsel and Ribbons

It goes without saying that these items are potentially hazardous to any curious pet. However, it can’t be stressed enough how detrimental ingesting either of these items can be. That’s because, if it’s not detected early enough, tinsel or ribbon can get caught in your pets intestines and could be fatal. If you like the vertical sparkle tinsel adds to a tree, try a series of stringed cranberries. Use non-toxic gold or silver paint to make them more festive.

  • Left Overs and Libations

After a holiday feast, pet owners might jump at the opportunity to give their pet a cooked bone or a wedge of sweet potato. While some foods are perfectly acceptable and even beneficial for a pet (fresh cranberries and green beans), some holiday dishes should never travel from dinner table to pet dish. These items include corn, onions, candies, raisins, nuts and alcoholic beverages. Another popular misconception is cooked bones. While it might seem natural to offer your pup the bone from the Christmas ham, it might do more bad than good. That’s because the bone has been cooked and is prone to splinter, and once ingested could cause serious issues in a dog’s digestive system.

Even with guidelines in hand, accidents still happen. St. Francis Animal Hospital is open 7 days a week all through the holidays for those untimely mishaps.