Pet safety tips for the Christmas holidays
Just as the firework season is a dangerous period for your dog, the Christmas holidays also bring a range of new challenges for your pet. According to veterinarians, Christmas is one of the most risky times of the year for pets. You want to enjoy the holiday season with your dog without any dramas or expensive vet bills, so here are a few tips to help keep your pet safe this Christmas.
Christmas often means deliveries, visitors, time away and generally rushing about trying to get things sorted. This can be quite upsetting for your dog, so it is important that you try to keep to your dog’s routine as much as possible. Try to walk and feed him at his usual times, keep up with his obedience training and teach him to relax on his own in an allocated space. It is also a good idea to have somewhere safe for him to go to if he wants to rest. It is at these times that your dog crate will be invaluable as his safe haven.
Visitors and your dog over Christmas
Before visitors arrive, it is a good idea to take your dog on a long walk to tire him out. Then let him rest in his crate, perhaps with a stuffed Kong to keep him occupied and settled. If you don’t have a crate, then perhaps putting him in a safe room behind a dog gate will ensure that he is not bothered, especially if there are children about. Remember, no matter how friendly your dog is or how old the child is, children and dogs should always be supervised together. By all means, have your dog involved in the festivities, but if you cannot supervise your dog, then ensure that he is kept relaxed and safe in his own area where nobody can bother him or feed him.
Dog-proof your decorations
Other things to watch out for are your Christmas decorations. The most obvious one being the Christmas tree. Pine needles are sharp and they can get stuck in your dog’s pads or in his throat if he decides to eat it. Many dog owners opt for an artificial Christmas tree for this reason. Also, make sure that your dog cannot get to the tree’s water, as pine sap is toxic to your dog. A good idea is to put a barrier around your Christmas tree so that your dog cannot get to it, knock the tree over, drink the water or get hold of the tinsel and decorations, especially if they are breakable (glass) or small enough to swallow! A good idea is to use a playpen around your Christmas tree, but ensure you unplug your Christmas lights when you go out. You can also spray the cables with bitter apple, Tabasco sauce or put them inside a PVC pipe, to deter your dog from chewing the cables.
Decorations can fall and break causing a lot of damage to your dog, so opt for unbreakable ones and big enough so that your dog cannot swallow them. Some people choose to decorate the top and middle of the tree and leave the bottom part without decorations so that the dog cannot get to it. Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, so never hang anything edible, especially chocolate, in your tree, as this will entice your dog to jump up to get it. Try to also keep all toys away from your dog, as he can choke on it. Clear up after you have unwrapped your gifts to ensure your dog cannot get to any wrapping paper, ribbons or toys.
Toxic treats over Christmas
Keep all chocolate well away from dogs at this time of year (i.e. not hanging it in the tree, leaving it under the tree or in Christmas stockings), as your dog may suffer from theobromine poisoning if he eats it. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased urination and seizures. Symptoms can start within 6 to12 hours of your dog eating chocolate. Different chocolates contain different amounts of theobromine, with dark or cooking chocolate being the most toxic. Half of a 1/2 lb block of dark chocolate contains enough theobromine to be dangerous to a 20 lb dog.
Another thing to keep away from your dog is Christmas cake, as raisins and sultanas can be toxic to your dog. Some dogs can eat it and be completely fine, but some can become very ill when eating it. Also, try not to give your dog left-overs as it may upset his stomach, and definitely do not give him any cooked bones as these will splinter and puncture his digestive system.
Other things to watch out for is anti-freeze which can cause irreversible liver failure. We also tend to decorate our homes with plants which are poisonous to dogs, including holly, mistletoe, ivy, lilies, poinsettias and many more, so keep your dog out of the way of these. Also, ensure he cannot knock candles you put out and that he cannot knock anything into the fireplace.
Create a safe place for your dog
Having your dog in a safe place will ensure that he is not fed any unwanted food, given alcohol, teased or being forced to interact in a manner he is not used to. He will also not be in the way when you are rushing around getting things sorted, get stepped on or have things dropped on him with all the hustle and bustle. Also, he may get frightened by poppers, balloons, champagne bottles and other loud noises, which may cause him to run off in a fright. In fact, you will be able to relax more knowing he is safe in his own rest area.
Be aware that it can get very cold at this time of year and you may need to invest in a coat (ideally high-visibility for those dark nights) or boots for your dog, to ensure he is warm and comfortable. If your dog stays outside, make sure he has plenty of protection from rain, snow and wind and that his water bowl is not frozen.
Lastly, be prepared so that if anything happens, you have covered all avenues. Find out what your veterinarian’s opening times are, as well as their emergency number. Ideally, have your dog microchipped and make sure he wears a tag with your details on it in case he gets frightened and runs away or gets lost. It is a good idea to put your mobile number on it, so you can be contacted when someone finds him. If you do not want any of your details on his tag, then you can register your dog with your local council and they will give you a tag with a unique ID number and a telephone number so that the council can contact you directly. You may also want to insure your pet, in case he needs emergency veterinary care.
Most pet-related Christmas dangers are easy to avoid, so be prepared and just have fun with your best friend!