Pets and the holidays: Answers to your questions

Pets of all shapes and sizes dress in their festive holiday apparel to visit with Santa at a Dallas PetSmart on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.
Pets of all shapes and sizes dress in their festive holiday apparel to visit with Santa at a Dallas PetSmart on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. AP Images for PetSmart

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 Dr. Gershon L. Alaluf, a veterinarian at Canyon Animal Hospital in Laguna Beach. “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 ( and The Grey Muzzle Organization (

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.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with