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Keeping Our Pets Safe and Cosy This Christmas

Keeping Our Pets Safe and Cosy This Christmas

Lauren Dorey |

'Tis nearly Christmas! And as we deck the halls and indulge in festive feasts, it’s worth bearing a few things in mind to ensure our curious and playful pets stay safe and snug. Especially those extra curious puppies and kittens that have never experienced Christmas before! Here are some tips to keep your dogs and cats out of harm's way whilst not missing out on the merriment:

MIND THE MENU

While we're relishing delicious festive spreads, some foods are a big no-no for our pets. Keep these away from curious noses:

  • Chocolate: A holiday favourite for us, but a big danger for our pets. The ingredient in chocolate intended for humans, which is problematic for our pets is Theobromine. This damages the nervous system in cats and dogs and can be fatal, with dark chocolate being the biggest risk.  Don’t leave any temptingly wrapped chocolate gifts under the Christmas tree, in stockings and keep any chocolate well out your pets reach at all times. Be mindful of chocolate advent calendars and tree decorations too.
  • Grapes, Currents, Raisins and Sultanas: These foods can cause kidney failure in dogs, with dried fruit found in mince pies, Christmas cake and panettone.
  • Onions, Garlic and chives: These can be toxic to both cats and dogs and can be found in both stuffing and gravy on our Christmas roast.
  • Xylitol: Found in sugar-free treats, sweets and candy canes. Xylitol can also be known as birch sugar so carefully check labels to keep these treats out of reach. Even small amounts are highly toxic to pets.
  • Cooked bones: Cooked bones can be prone to splinter, damaging the throat, stomach or cause blockages in the gut when eaten. They may smell very tempting so ensure if they are thrown in the bin, that the bin is secure to stop peckish pets rummaging for leftovers.
  • Alcohol: Watch where you leave your glass of Christmas tipple. Alcohol is deadly to both dogs and cats.

Symptoms of your pet eating something toxic include wretching, vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling or fits. Their breathing may be irregular and laboured and their behaviour may change. They may show signs of pain and hiding away, itching, lethargy and could appear disorientated or wobble when they walk.

 If you’re looking to gift safe, special treats for your pets, stick to pet-friendly ingredients and consider making homemade treats to be sure of what they can safely consume. Lean meat such as a little cooked turkey or a raw carrot (for dogs) are safe and make much better treats, but be careful not to over feed your pet at this time of year, as this could lead to tummy upsets and putting on too much weight. Continue to feed your pet their usual food so you can look out for any key changes in their behaviour.

PET PROOF DECOR

Watch out for hazardous decorations! Those novel shiny baubles, ornaments and twinkling lights might look tempting, but they pose risks to curious pets.

  • Decorations: Opt for pet-safe ornaments to avoid any mishaps and keep them out of reach of mouths, wagging tails or batting paws. Be especially careful of very delicate decorations such as glass, that could be knocked and broken causing cuts to your pet’s mouth or feet. Instead, use robust, unbreakable ornaments and keep them at the top of the Christmas tree away from being knocked off. Tinsel can also be a choking hazard if swallowed or cause an obstruction in the gut. Don’t leave pets unattended in a room with decorations.
  • Artificial snow: This may be made with ingredients that are toxic if ingested by our pets. Eating a small amount shouldn’t cause any issues but larger amounts could cause a range of symptoms from upset tummies, drooling or blockages.
  • Lights: Chewing lights could risk an electric shock. Batteries, if accidently bitten or ingested can also pose a risk causing burns to the mouth and internal organs.
  • Festive Plants: Some Christmas plants can be highly toxic to our pets. These include festive favourites - poinsettias, holly, ivy and mistletoe.
  • The Christmas Tree: If you have a real tree, swallowing branches, the sharp, fine pine needles, licking the tree sap or drinking the water that the tree stands in can make your pet ill or cause irritation. An artificial tree may be a better option for our pets, but keep in mind they can still injure themselves by knocking the tree over or climbing it, so use a sturdy base. Sweep up or vacuum fallen needles regularly. Give cats an alternative to climb onto, such as a secure shelf, cupboard or tall cat climbing post with different levels. Cats feel safest when they can see from a high view point rather than being at ground level.

  • Candles: Lit candles can pose a fire hazard, especially with curious pets around. Opt for flameless alternatives or place candles in secure areas inaccessible to pets. Some scented candles may release chemicals that are toxic to our pets when burned too.
  • Supervise Gift Giving: On the big day, as presents are unwrapped, keep an eye on ribbons, paper, string, bows, and packaging material. These can be choking hazards or cause intestinal blockages if ingested. As with lights, be careful with battery operated children’s toys. Perhaps consider putting pets in another room during the gift opening frenzy to keep them safe.
  • Festive Pet Outfits: Although these cute outfits make for wonderful photos of your pet, never force your pet to wear a costume. Instead, you could treat your pet to a new festive themed safety collar for your cat or a coat specially designed for your dog, to be worn when out and about in the cold weather.

If you spot any signs of illness in your pet, even if they seem mild (like they have a tummy bug), or there is a change in your pet’s behaviour, it is always best to get your pet checked over by a vet in case something more serious is going on. If you do see your pet has consumed something they shouldn’t have, don’t delay and get the vet right away. The earlier the problem is caught, the best chance they have of a good outcome. Take any food packaging or examples of what they have consumed with you to help your vet identify toxic compounds and find the best treatment for a quick recovery.

DESIGNATE A SAFE HAVEN

With the comings and goings of guests, loud noises, and general commotion, it's wise to create a quiet space for your pet. Set up a cosy spot or doggy den in a quiet area of your home with their bed, toys and water, away from the festivities where they can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed. Maintain your pet's regular feeding and exercise schedule as much as possible. This helps them feel secure amidst the holiday chaos.

If you have people visiting over the festive season, don’t force your pet to socialise and let them retreat to their safe space, where they won’t be disturbed. A pheromone plug in can be useful to reduce their anxiety.

If possible, avoid other unfamiliar four-legged friends from visiting your home at this time of year. Unless your dog is very outgoing with other dogs, with everything else going on around them, this may cause extra stress. But don’t forget company and playtime for your pet too! With lots going on, they’ll enjoy longer walks to help cope with the extra excitement and use their energy positively and help to keep them finding alternative things to play with…. such as the Christmas tree!

KEEP THEM WARM

Cold weather can be tough on our pets. The wet, muddy or snowy weather can mean cleaning and drying your pet can be a real chore. If your dog has long hair, consider clipping them shorter in a maintenance trim to help clean them up after walks and dry quickly. Ensure they have a warm and snug spot indoors away from drafts.  

Consider pet-safe sweaters or jackets for outdoor excursions, and wipe their paws clean after each walk to remove any salt or ice-melting chemicals. Road salt can be very irritating for paws and is poisonous if your pet licks it off their fur or feet. Antifreeze is another highly toxic winter hazard and is often used to defrost car windscreens. Antifreeze is particularly deadly to our cats but can be especially tempting to them because of its sweet taste. If you suspect your cat or dog may have licked antifreeze, take them to the vet immediately, even if they show no symptoms.  

PLAN AHEAD

If you're planning to travel or have specific concerns about your pet's health during the holidays, consult your veterinarian beforehand for guidance. With increased foot traffic and doors opening frequently, accidents happen. Ensure your pet's ID tags and microchip information are up-to-date in case they accidentally slip out of the home. Have your vet’s details to hand or if you’re travelling, familiarise yourself with the nearest emergency veterinary clinic's location and contact information, just in case.

This season, let's ensure our pets revel in the joy of the festivities while staying safe and cosy by our side. Here's to a festive and fur-friendly celebration.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and all the pets out there!

 

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