Vet issues warning for dog owners this Christmas
Everybody wants to have festive fun at Christmas, including your dog!
But with so much going on in the festive period, there’s already plenty to stress about.
Matalan has partnered with Veterinary Physiotherapist, Tilly Wild, to share some expert tips to help ensure that your dog has a happy, healthy and safe Christmas, making the festive season as enjoyable as possible for the whole family.
Snapping of crackers, the bang of party poppers and loud fireworks can sometimes spook your pet, especially if your dog has noise phobias or anxiety.
Think about the activities that lie ahead and pre-empt loud noises whilst making sure your pet is calm and comfortable. Try not to fuss over your pet too much though if they do become afraid, as this only confirms they are right to feel scared.
Instead, try providing your dog with a safe space such as their crate, den or puppy pen with lots of interesting and fun things such as their favourite toys, long lasting chews etc to keep them occupied.
Lots of new people: If you’re hosting, or have taken your dog along to the party, there may be lots of people around, so make sure you put some time aside for your dog. It can be a natural reaction for dogs to get easily overwhelmed or over-excitable, so try to find a quiet space to help them calm down in.
Just like your dog, children may be excitable too, which can be hard for some dogs to tolerate. If children will be present, make sure they know how to handle a dog and don’t leave them alone together without supervision.
Everyone loves presents, including your dog! Be mindful that curious dogs may sniff around the tree if you leave your presents out, which can be a risk for those that smell edible! Keep these types of enticing gifts out of their reach.
With lots of new smells, items to explore (and wrapping paper to rip up!), your curious canine can easily get over-excited too. Though it can be cute, this can cause Christmas chaos if other family members are trying to open their presents peacefully.
Consider wrapping up some presents for your pooch to unwrap whilst the rest of you crack on or having treats or a toy nearby that will keep their attention whilst you all enjoy that Christmas moment.
However, if your dog tends to eat paper rather than just shred it, opt for hiding their gift in something else or surprising them with it halfway through.
It’s not unusual for a showering of debris after the pulling of crackers and party poppers. With little gifts and plenty of rubbish likely to end up all over the table and floor, keep an eye on what your dog might pick up and swallow.
Small prizes from crackers could be a choking hazard or cause internal blockages, so if possible, do these types of activities away from your dog and ensure a quick tidy up! As a lot of dogs enjoy ripping up wrapping paper, have a bin bag ready for paper to go in straight away to avoid having to clean up home-made snow too!
Try to keep to your dog’s routine as much as you can during the festive period to give them consistency. A walk is a perfect way to give them timeout to calm down, exert some energy or have some fun of their own. However, wintery weather can be unpleasant for your pup’s paws, so watch out for frosty grass and salt grit, and ensure to give their feet a wipe when you get home.
In Or Out:
With so much going on, don’t forget to let your dog out to the toilet every now and again, whether that means excusing yourself from your guests or nipping back after a few hours if you’ve left them home alone whilst you head out for some festive fun. And if you are away for periods of time, provide mental stimulation activities such as long-lasting chews or enrichment games to keep your dog occupied and stress free whilst you are gone.
Whether it be real or fake, a tree indoors is likely to be a strange sight for your dog! Chances are they will come for a sniff around, so ensure that your tree is securely anchored to decrease the risk of it being knocked over and causing an injury and/or a big mess!
Also, make sure you hoover up regularly to minimise your dog’s ability to ingest any pine needles or getting them stuck in their paws. Whilst pine is not toxic to dogs, ingesting too much could cause irritation to the digestive system, and needles can be sharp.
If your tree is real, ensure that the water reservoir inside of the tree stand isn’t accessible to your pet, as the bacteria could make them very ill. Many trees are preserved with pesticides and fertilizers, which can be very dangerous to your pet if ingested too! So make sure you thoroughly cover the tree stand with foil and a well-wrapped tree skirt to block the access from any inquisitive four-legged family members.
Lights And Wires:
Lighting up your home for Christmas is very common. However, vets warn of Christmas lights causing electric shocks, mouth damage or intestinal blockages if your pup tries to eat them. So make sure you don’t leave your dog unattended and that the lights are out of reach! With more wires around than normal too and curious canines sniffing around, make sure any wires are blocked off or tidied away neatly to avoid your dog getting tangled up in them or in very serious cases, receiving a dangerous electric shock.
Though they are fun and festive, snow globes can sometimes contain antifreeze, which is extremely toxic to dogs. Keep them in a place where they can not be knocked easily, and if a spillage occurs, be sure to send your dog out of the room as the clean up ensues.
Mistletoe And Holly:
Dependent on how much of these festive plants are consumed, your dog could suffer some nasty tummy troubles. It is best to keep them displayed in an area that your dog can’t get to or opt for artificial or pet-safe versions of your jolly plants instead.
Of course, you already know not to leave lit candles unattended. During the holidays you might have more candles around than normal, so ensure they are on a stable surface and aren’t in a place that your dog can easily knock over or catch their tail on.
Though undeniably delicious to us, several festive foods from your Christmas dinner can actually be poisonous to dogs! It may seem like a seasonal treat, but letting your pup have anything from your dinner plate that contains chocolate, mince pies, Christmas pudding, onion gravy or alcohol could be very dangerous for them – so avoid the urge to let your dog enjoy your Christmas dinner too. If you’re leaving the table without clearing the plates, make sure someone has eyes on the dog to ensure they don’t lap up some leftovers on their own accord!
So, what Christmas food can they eat? Without fat or gravy, skinless and boneless meat such as turkey can be a tasty treat. Vegetables such as carrot, peas, broccoli and brussels sprouts are also safe for dogs - however, to avoid an upset tummy, it’s best to try and resist the urge to share your dinner and instead keep them on their usual diet.
Though your Christmas cooking may leave you with some bones and carcasses to dispose of, giving them to your dog isn’t a smart way to get rid of them. When bones are cooked, they can splinter easily into parts which could get stuck in your dog’s gums or they could choke on them too – so keep your bones out of reach and dispose of in the food waste bin.
Chocolates And Sweets:
Christmas is the time to indulge and the likelihood is it will be hard to escape your sweet tooth. Included above, chocolate is dangerous for dogs, so avoid putting chocolate decorations on the tree and keep the lids on the sweet stuff to protect your pup as you treat yourself.
Travelling By Vehicle:
Is your car prepped for your dog to travel? Much like humans, dogs do not want to be uncomfortable in the car on a long journey. Ensure they have a safe and secure space, and are suitably restrained in line with the Highway Code either in a crate or attached by harness and doggy seatbelt, so they can’t cause distractions or become injured if you need to brake quickly.
Taking Regular Breaks:
Prep your journey well in advance. With a travelling pooch, you’ll need to think about how often they may need to hop out of the car to stretch their legs and go to the toilet, so factor in your pet-friendly stops during your journey. You could even research and take advantage of some wintery walks to go on en-route, to also use some of your dog’s energy up before arriving at your destination.
Food And Drink:
Plenty of drinking water is needed for your pup to keep them comfortable on any journey, so having a travel bowl and water bottle on hand is essential. It is recommended by the RSPCA that you ‘feed your pet no sooner than two hours before you travel’ to avoid car sickness. Avoid changing their diet before travel to avoid tummy upsets too.
Make sure you have all the essentials needed for your journey. As it is winter, extra blankets and towels will be beneficial, and a flask full of warm water (not too hot!) or dog safe wipes will be good for washing paws. You’ll need a lead for when you stop and always ensure your dog has a collar with your details on in case they do become separated from you.
Whether travelling or staying at home, always be sure to find out where your nearest out of hours veterinary practice is in case of a medical emergency, and always seek veterinary advice for any concerns or worries.