The day after Halloween, retailers start promoting the upcoming holidays, and with only three weeks until Thanksgiving, we might as well concede that it’s time to think about the holiday season.

But for pet owners, it’s especially important to think about what the holidays mean for furry and feathered friends. Whether your celebration happens at home or you’ll be traveling and need to find someone to watch your pet when you’re away, there’s definitely a lot to consider.

Look at all This Holiday Human Food!

Holidays always mean having food around the house that typically isn’t there the rest of the year. Most dog owners know that chocolate is a big no-no for dogs, but other forbidden foods that could make Fido sick are onions, garlic, grapes, or raisins.

Dr. Janette Alvarez is a Wilton resident and the veterinarian who owns Animal Wellness Veterinary Center, and she says the holidays mean keeping a very watchful eye.

“Pets love the smell of our holiday celebration foods and will often do things they don’t usually do when guided by their noses. Guard everything having to do with food at the holidays–tables, counters, guests’ luggage, garbages. Many dogs get into the garbage when nobody is looking and eat turkey carcasses and other discarded pieces of food. Guard the dough if you are baking to prevent your pet from ingesting and having the yeast rise in their stomachs, causing bloat. Dogs will happily jump on your table to get unguarded food.”

People may think that turkey skin or fatty pieces are ok, since dogs can eat chicken. Not true, says Alvarez, and also says to beware of sweets that contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, because it’s toxic to dogs.

Who Invited All These People?

When more people visit the house, Alvarez says there are lots of things to consider. First, be sure overnight guests keep their foods, gum/candy and medications well out of reach of any dogs. Also, if pets are anxious with people visiting, allow them to be comfortable in a room that guests won’t use. “Sometimes a bedroom with the door locked works well for an evening. This provides both the dog and the people with an enjoyable experience,” she suggests. And if you have escape artist pets, watch open doorways and exits, and be sure your Houdinis are microchipped before they get lost.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Alvarez says decorating for the holidays also means taking precautions for your pets. Be careful of tinsel, which can necessitate intestinal surgery if eaten, and potpourri, which is toxic if ingested. Make sure to secure trees from toppling and don’t use any tree additives to the water. It’s also a good idea to unplug tree lights when you’re not at home. Speaking of greenery, many of the popular holiday plants are toxic, including mistletoe, holly, amaryllis and poinsettias. And candles need to be carefully guarded.

A Gift? For Me?

Alvarez isn’t keen at all on the idea of giving a pets as a holiday present. “It’s never a good idea,” she says. “Getting a pet should be a well-thought out addition to a family, not a spur of the moment surprise to make Christmas special.”

We’re Leaving On a Jet Plane

The Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/New Years holidays are the biggest travel weeks of the year, which also makes them the busiest weeks for quality pet care providers. If you know you’ll need a pet sitter for the upcoming holidays, it’s a good idea to book now. Last year, boarding kennels were at capacity and most pet sitters were booked completely; this year, industry experts say, is projected to be the same.

“Book as early as possible–ideally as soon as you make your own travel plans,” says Traci Simo of Wilton-based Canine Company. “If you wait, you may not be able to find quality care–especially if you want care that comes to your home.” At-home care in particular is in demand, she says, because of its benefits, which include less risk of exposure to illness and less stress for the pet as well as added home security and convenience for the pet parent.

When choosing a pet sitter, says Simo, it’s best to stick with the professionals, even if only for a few days. “While your neighbor may love animals, she probably isn’t trained in animal behavior or prepared to deal with a health emergency.” Other factors to consider when choosing a pet sitter, include:

• Is the sitter certified in pet first aid and CPR, and ready to handle a health issue? Is the sitter trained to give medication and injections, if needed?

• Does the sitter have emergency back up to care for your pet so a visit is never missed?

• Does the sitter provide daily email reports and photos, so you know how your pet is doing?

Be sure to schedule a “meet-and-greet” before the first visit so sessions can be customized to meet each pet’s need, Simo adds.