Pet Connection

Holiday Pet-iquette

We've gathered answers for 6 common holiday situations faced by pet lovers

It's that time of year again. People are wondering "Should I tip my dog's groomer?", "What should I get for my pet-loving friends?" and "Is it OK to take cookies to my vet?" You have questions; we have answers.

What's a great gift for my pet sitter, dog groomer or dog walker? It's hard to go wrong with cash stashed inside a cute pet-themed card, signed with your pet's name (and yours). Consider giving the cost of one session or visit. A gift certificate for a manicure or a gift card to a favorite coffee shop may also be welcome.

Should I get my veterinarian a gift? It's definitely not required, but many pet owners enjoy sharing holiday goodies with their pets' other best friends.

"Our amazing clients give us all kinds of goodies, from cookies to candies to fully catered lunch to pizza to gift cards for the staff," says Gershon L. Alaluf, DVM, at Canyon Animal Hospital in Laguna Beach, California. "We are always very thankful and very happy to receive every gift given, and every last morsel is ingested."

My dog pooped on my parents' carpet. What should I do? Oops! We hope you brought a good enzymatic cleanser and some cleanup towels with you. Clean it up as best you can, and offer to have the carpet professionally cleaned. It's a small price to pay for family amity.

What's a good gift for pet-loving friends and family? Find out what kinds of bedding and other products they already use or how their pet likes to play. For instance, if the dog is a tough chewer or loves fetching balls, take those preferences into account. Dr. Becker's QT loves squeaky toys, and Mikkel's pug, Willy, is a connoisseur of small, soft, fuzzy toys without stuffing. The Thornton dogs favor treats above all else.

"A personalized item is thoughtful, too," Mikkel adds, "such as a bed, collar or bowl, or breed-specific items like calendars, cards or stationery."

Do the person and dog participate in a sport? A supply of dog treats or a new treat bag will be appreciated. For the pet and pet lover who have everything, make a donation to a pet charity in their name. A couple of our favorites are World Vets (worldvets.org) and The Grey Muzzle Organization (greymuzzle.org).

Is it OK to bring my pet to the family holiday gathering? Always ask first, and respect the response, even if it's negative. Not everyone loves pets as much as we do, and some people suffer from allergies or animal-related phobias. If you must bring your pet, plan to stay in a hotel, and consider your pet a good excuse to go take a walk or have some down time to yourself.

Should I get my family a pet for Christmas? There used to be a sentiment that it was a bad idea to get pets during the holidays, but if done right, it can be a joyful experience. Studies show that pets given as gifts are just as likely to stay in homes and are just as well loved as animals acquired at other times or in other ways.

"Any time someone is considering bringing an animal into a home, they should be mindful of the commitment and give thought to what type of pet will be best for the family and lifestyle," says Kristi Littrell, adoption manager for Best Friends Animal Society.

If you have time off during the holidays, that can be a good opportunity to spend time with and start training a new pet. If that's not an option, present your family with a gift card or certificate from your local animal shelter, rescue group or a reputable breeder. Then you can all go choose your pet together when the time is right.

Q&A

Avian obesity is

plus-size problem

Q: My veterinarian says my bird is fat. Is that really something I need to worry about? -- via Facebook

A: You bet! Obesity is as much an issue in pet birds as it is in dogs and cats. An overweight bird can be predisposed to metabolic diseases such as diabetes. He can also become arthritic or develop fatty liver disease.

Certain species tend to be more likely to grow tubby -- Amazon parrots, parakeets, canaries, cockatoos and Quaker parakeets -- but any bird can gain too much weight if he's allowed to eat whatever he wants. Pet birds may start out on good diets but become choosy with age, deciding they are going to eat only one or two types of food.

Don't let your bird get away with that. He's most likely to have a balanced diet if he eats a variety of foods. A pelleted diet supplemented by healthy food from your own plate is the best way to feed him. Birds can and will eat pasta, cooked chicken, scrambled eggs, beans and most fruits and vegetables. Avian expert Scott Weldy, DVM, says that most birds do well on a diet of 70 to 80 percent pelleted food and 20 to 30 percent fresh or cooked food.

Avoid giving birds avocado, onion, mushrooms or chocolate, all of which have toxic effects. Highly salted foods are a no-no as well.

What's the key to determining if your bird is overweight? Birds with cleavage rivaling that of a Hollywood starlet are too fat. Birds should be lean and sleek, with no cleavage at all, Dr. Weldy says. If you can't feel your bird's keelbone because it's covered by a layer of fat, talk to your veterinarian about ways to help him get back to a healthy weight. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Downward, uh, cat?

Yoga class makes mews

-- Cat pose, anyone? Yoga with cats is the latest exercise trend to fill studios and, yes, shelters nationwide. Not surprising, since cats are masters at contorting themselves into difficult positions. Having the classes at a shelter or cat cafe is a way to bring adoptable cats to people's attention. In some cases, the fee for the class is donated to the shelter. Cats stroll among attendees, some demonstrating their own skills, others batting at downward-hanging ponytails. And even if your form isn't perfect, a rub from a friendly cat can help to lower your blood pressure.

-- Kiah, a pit bull, was found in a shelter in Kirby, Texas, recovering from a brutal hammer blow to the head. Lucky for her, she was chosen for a program to train pit bulls for law enforcement work and was soon recognized as a gifted trainee. After graduation, she was placed with Officer Justin Bruzgul as a narcotics and missing persons detection dog for the Poughkeepsie, New York, police department. Bruzgul and Kiah visit schools and conferences to educate the public about the importance of animal shelters and rescue, and they recently received the 2016 ASPCA Public Service Award.

-- A clean hamster is a happy hamster. The furry little critters groom themselves frequently and enjoy a nice sand bath every once in a while. You can purchase chinchilla bathing sand (not dust, which can cause respiratory problems) at pet supply stores. Offer fresh bathing sand every time, and remove it when your hamster has rolled to his heart's content. Brush him off as well. Avoid giving your hamster a water bath. If he does get wet, dry him thoroughly with a towel and keep him out of drafts. If your hamster doesn't groom himself regularly, take him to the veterinarian for a checkup. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton, Mikkel Becker.

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

More like Pet Connection