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Christmas is an exciting time of year for you and your family but it can also be a busy and stressful time for your pets, as often their routine may change and their homes may become busy with visitors coming and going. However, there are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that the festive season is as stress free for your pets as possible, so everyone can enjoy this special time of year.

How to keep your pet safe around Christmas food

During the festive season we often celebrate Christmas with a number of different foods that we may not routinely eat during the rest of the year. Unfortunately for our pets - especially dogs, who usually have more adventurous appetites - Christmas food often contains ingredients that are toxic to them and may make them seriously ill if they eat any. However, there are steps that you can take to ensure that your pet is kept safe over Christmas, while also allowing you to enjoy your favourite festive food.

 

Food that is toxic for pets include;

  • Grapevine fruit such as raisins, grapes, sultanas and currants. These are popular choices as ingredients for Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding.
  • Chocolate and cocoa powder. These foods contain theobromine which is toxic to dogs. The levels of theobromine vary from high levels in dark chocolate to low levels in white chocolate.
  • Xylitol. This is a sweetener that is found in an increasing number of sugar-free products. It may be found in; chewing gum, sweets and cakes, along with a range of other foods. To ensure your dog’s safety you should check the ingredients of all food to be certain that it is not present.
  • Alcohol. Along with various drinks it may also be included in certain Christmas foods, including some Christmas cakes.

These simple steps will help keep your pet safe around Christmas food;

  • Keep all food out of the reach of your pet. This may mean keeping it in a high cupboard, as cats and dogs can reach surprisingly high when there is tempting food present on work surfaces.
  • Carefully check the ingredients of any food that you are bringing into the house so you can be sure which food is toxic for your pet, so it can be safely stored out of their way.
  • Keep your dog in a separate room when you are preparing and eating food.
  • Avoid feeding your pet any leftovers that might be harmful, and ensure that all family members and visitors know not to feed them.
  • Stick to your pet’s normal diet and routine to try to prevent any episodes of gastroenteritis (dietary upsets). Vomiting and diarrhoea cases in pets are common over the festive period, as they are frequently offered food and treats that they are unfamiliar with, which can go on to make your pet ill.

 

If your pet eats any food that contains any toxic ingredients then contact us immediately as they will usually need to see a vet urgently for treatment. If you are unsure whether your pet has come into contact with any food that may harm them, then you can phone us for advice and one of our veterinary team will be happy to help you. We also advise that if your pet shows any signs of illness then you should bring them into us for one of our vets to check over.

 

Preventing your pet from having a festive decoration mishap

The festive season can also bring many changes to our homes and our pets’ environments. Some of these changes can be hazardous for pets so we need to ensure that we keep them safe over Christmas.

 

Steps to take to make your home safe for your pet over Christmas:

  • Keep any electric cables from lights and decorations away from any pets and out of their reach, especially if you have a house rabbit, a cat or a dog that chews.
  • Keep any glass or ceramic decorations and baubles away from dogs that chew, or any inquisitive cats, as any broken pieces of ornament can cause injuries and can be dangerous if eaten.
  • Homemade salt dough decorations are becoming increasingly popular but you must keep them out of dogs’ reach. They may think that they are a tasty treat but the high salt levels can make your pet very ill.
  • Pets may like to open any presents that are kept under the tree, especially if you have a dog who chews. To ensure that they do not eat something toxic or chew something that will cause a digestive blockage, you should keep presents out of the reach of your pet.
  • Flowers are a popular gift to give over Christmas. If you have cats then you should make sure that you do not have any arrangements that contain lilies in your house, as all parts of the plant are highly toxic to cats.
  • Poinsettia is a popular Christmas plant that can cause signs of illness if pets eat it. While they will often recover from these signs, it is safest to keep this plant in a room away from them!

 

If you are worried that your pet has eaten something that may cause them harm or that they have suffered an injury, contact us urgently for further advice. Our vets are always happy to check your pet if you are concerned about them.

 

Reducing stress for your pet over Christmas  

The change in routine that often occurs over Christmas can be very stressful for some pets and if you also have increased numbers of visitors to your house, this can be very unsettling for some animals. If your dog has separation anxiety, or your cat suffers from cystitis caused by stress, you should take precautionary measures to help them cope during the festive period. You can contact us for further advice on how to help.

 

There are a number of steps that all owners can take to reduce stress for your pets over Christmas;

  • Keep your pet’s feeding routine and diet the same over Christmas.
  • Continue to exercise your dog. You may need to walk them earlier in the day over Christmas and New Year to avoid fireworks, but exercise is important to help keep dogs calm when at home.
  • Ensure cats have a quiet room they can access that is away from any visitors. In this room they should have their litter tray and water.
  • Provide your dog with a room away from visitors to help keep them calm. Make sure they have access to their bed and a water bowl.
  • Do not force your dog to interact with visitors and make sure they always have the option to leave a room where your visitors may be.
  • Keep dogs mentally stimulated with anti-boredom toys, such as a Kong, to help keep your pet calm.
  • Pheromones such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs can be used in your pets safe area to help keep your pets calm.

If you would like more information on how you can help keep your pet calm over Christmas, one of our veterinary team will be more than happy to answer your questions.

We hope you all have a lovely and safe Christmas with your family and pets, but if you do have any worries about your pets over the festive period then our veterinary team is here to answer any questions. Our vets are always happy to check your pets if you are concerned about any illness or injuries.  

 



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