Christmas is a great time to share some fun with your pets. However, every year some Christmases are wrecked by avoidable pet illnesses. This year, make sure your Christmas goes pet-stress-free with our list of Christmas cautions…steer clear of these common pet pitfalls and hopefully, you’ll enjoy a relaxed Christmas - for you and your furry family members.
Several traditional Christmas decorations are hazardous for our pets.
Baubles are fun to chase but many are glass and can shatter, causing injury. Small parts can be a choking risk.
Wreaths can contain toxic plants which can cause tummy upsets. They may also contain foamy material like oasis, which could block the gut if eaten, causing serious illness.
Christmas trees are spiny and can fall, especially if climbed.
Please remember to supervise pets around decorations
- Stringy things
Please be extra cautious of long, hanging decorations like ribbon, fairy lights, and tinsel.These are ultra-tempting for pets - especially cats - and pose a big risk. They can cause serious illness by getting stuck in the throat or tangled in the gut.
Christmas is a sociable time - a time for us to indulge in games and get-togethers. Some pets become stressed by the presence of unusual people, however, especially excitable children. Please give your pet the option to escape somewhere quiet if they want to. Forcing them to be part of the Christmas fun can be very un-fun for them.
Pets can be frightened by games that create tension, so even board games can be unnerving. Our pets are perceptive – they pick up on the tension but may not realise it’s for fun and not for real. Allow your pets to escape if they choose. A hideaway in the bottom of a wardrobe or under a bed can be helpful.
When playing virtual reality games or games with handsets, please make sure pets are clear of the area, so they don’t get hit or trodden on by mistake.
- Change in routine
To help nervy pets stay calm, keep their daily routine and environment as similar as possible to normal. Keep meal, walk, and cuddle times similar, where possible. Consider leaving the room where your pet sleeps free from decorations, especially if they sleep unattended and may rummage through decorations while you’re not watching.
- Change in diet
It is best to keep your pets’ food and chews the same as usual over the Christmas holidays. Sudden changes in diet can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. There are other ways to gift your pet a Christmas treat – a more exciting walk, an extra game, or a new toy to explore? If you do choose to give your pet an edible treat, avoid anything poisonous (see below) and feed the treat in bite-sized pieces, in very small amounts.
- The cold weather
We are currently experiencing some milder days, but the cold could return over the Christmas weekend. Most pets can regulate their temperatures well, but young and old pets may struggle.
Make sure small pets living outside – like rabbits or guinea pigs - have shelter and plenty of bedding.
Older dogs may appreciate jackets, especially if they have joint disease – keeping joints warm can help control symptoms of arthritis.
Due to the cost of fuel, many of us have turned the thermostat down and layered ourselves up. Does your pet need to do the same? Thin-coated breeds, such as whippets, may need more assistance to stay warm.
Remember - we are under our duvets when the heating is off overnight, but many pets are not. They may cope, but they may not be comfy.
- Fancy dress
Fancy-dress can be fun and some pets are happy to wear Christmas jumpers for a short while (especially if it’s chilly – see point 11!). However, many pets don’t enjoy dressing up. Please don’t force your pet to wear anything if they are reluctant.
If you do dress up your pet, make safe choices - check the fit carefully, never let cats outside or dogs off lead in fancy dress, and never leave a dressed-up pet unattended.
- Poisonous Foods Like …Dried Grapes
Raisins, sultanas, and currants are in lots of Christmas foods - mince pies, Christmas pudding, and Christmas cake. Be careful - grapes and dried grapes are poisonous to pets, even in small quantities. It’s not about how many they eat, certain individuals are very sensitive to the poison, others less so, but don’t chance it – you’d be risking your pet’s life.
A seasonal favourite for many of us - but, every Christmas, we see cases of pets having eaten unsafe amounts. It’s an easy mistake to make – pets can sniff out a tin of choccies through the seal and wrapping – and they can be positively Houdini-like about accessing the spoils! Avoid putting pressies under the tree unless you know they are safe, and keep known chocolate treats far out of reach.
Pets are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol poisoning than we are. Alcohol, even in tiny volumes, can make pets feel sick, be sick and feel dizzy. Many pets will drink it willingly – this may seem funny, but they don’t know what they’re drinking and how they’re going to feel. You have a duty of care for your pet - don’t offer them alcohol, it could harm them.
- …Onions and Other Alliums
Alliums are vegetables – they include leek, garlic, and chive. When eaten by pets, they damage red blood cells and can cause significant anaemia (a low red blood cell count). Anaemia can make your pet anything from drowsy to life-threateningly unwell.
Please follow the advice above to help you and your furry family have a safe, healthy and vet-free Christmas!