Changes in your pet's routine can be detrimental. Here's how to better enjoy the holidays with your furry BFF.
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Credit: Photo: Na Kim

Holiday cheer can be stressful for everyone—even your four-legged pals. "It's a time of year that's fraught with potential pitfalls," says veterinarian Gary Richter, MS, DVM, author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. Follow these tips to make it a happy season for all.

Skip Table Scraps

"Bones, onions, garlic, chocolate, raisins, alcohol, and nuts are prominent holiday foods but also some of the most toxic for pets," says Caitie Steffen, a former veterinary technician and product manager for Whistle, a company that makes wireless pet trackers. "It's tempting to share with your pets, but it's not worth the risk."

Food doesn't have to be poisonous to be problematic. "The bigger issue is tummy upset because they ate something too high in fat or heavily seasoned," Richter says. Even when people resist the urge to give handouts, opportunistic counter surfers and Dumpster divers can still get into off-limits food. Empty the trash frequently and keep countertops as clear as possible.

Plan Other Smart Treats

It's OK to share some holiday fare with pets. "Roasted white meat turkey—there's no reason why a dog or cat can't have a little, minus the skin," Richter says. Add some unseasoned steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes, or sweet potatoes, and "you've got something that looks a lot like a holiday dinner," says Richter. "That stuff is generally fine for most animals—in moderation."

Manage Stress

The holidays can bring visitors to your home and make animals anxious. Maintain pets' routine as much as possible, Richter advises. Keep up regular walks with your dog, don't change up mealtimes, and spend one-on-one time with pets. Entertaining? "Make sure pets have a safe space that guests don't have access to," says Richter.

Beware of Decorations

The Christmas tree is a common hazard for pets on several levels. Curious animals can tip the tree over. Ingesting pine needles and sap, including sipping water in the stand, can cause gastrointestinal problems. Mistletoe, holly, lilies, and poinsettias are holiday plants that can cause an upset stomach or even more serious complications. Keep them out of paws' reach, or, when in doubt, go faux.

Spoil Them a Little

Why should humans be the only ones getting some holiday cheer? Pick up one of these three great gifts for Fluffy or Fido.

Whistle 3: This GPS tracker keeps tabs on your pet's whereabouts and monitors their daily activity and sleep. ($60, Amazon)

Paw5 Rock 'N Bowl ($30, Amazon) for dogs and Doc & Phoebe's Indoor Hunting Feeder ($40, for cats: Interactive feeders work with pets' natural instincts to turn mealtime into brain-boosting playtime.

Petcube Play ($200, This high-definition camera lets owners watch, hear, talk to, and play with home-alone pets via smartphone.