Christmas is a time of celebration for most people, however it is not always so enjoyable for our pets.
It is important to consider the potential problems our pets may face over the festive period, so read on for some handy hints to help keep your pets out of harm’s way this Christmas.
• Christmas trees, baubles, flashing lights and decorations are a big temptation for pets wanting to play, particularly curious cats. Ensure loose wires are tucked away, trees are secured and baubles and tinsel are kept out of the way. Try to use unbreakable decorations - glass or fragile decorations can break easily, cutting paws or causing serious gastrointestinal complications if eaten.
• Keep a close eye on children and pets playing together – it can be a very exciting time and both can become overexcited and hurt themselves.
• Dropped needles from real trees can be very sharp and become embedded in your pet’s feet or stuck in their throat if swallowed. Clean up any fallen pine needles regularly.
• Some Christmas plants such as Poinsettia, Holly, Mistletoe, Amaryllis and Lilies are highly toxic and can be fatal. Keep them well out of the reach of animals.
• It is the time of year that many car owners prepare their cars for the colder, icy weather. Antifreeze is a very palatable poison for our pets and often fatal, even in small amounts. Contact us straight away if you suspect your pet has ingested any antifreeze.
• Keep your pet on their normal diet and avoid giving your pet any leftovers as it may cause an upset tummy and you may find yourself mopping up little accidents on Christmas Day! What we consider to be treats can be extremely dangerous to our pets: Christmas cake, mince pies, macadamia nuts, onion, garlic, chives, alcohol, avocado, grapes and raisins should all be avoided. Ingestion can be toxic and sometimes fatal. It is very important that you contact us straight away if you suspect your pet has eaten anything poisonous. Do not give your pet cooked bones. They can splinter or get lodged in your pet’s throat, fracture teeth or cause serious internal damage if swallowed.
• Chocolate contains theobromine that is poisonous to pets and if eaten can be fatal. Make sure any chocolates including chocolate tree decorations are kept well out of your pet’s reach. Dark chocolate contains more theobromine than milk chocolate. If you suspect chocolate poisoning you should get in touch with us straight away. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, collapse and heart failure.
• Presents are not only tempting for us but also for our pets. Take care not to put any edible presents, for example chocolate, under the tree. Pets will often investigate new and unusual objects using their mouths and ribbons and bows can cause problems if chewed or swallowed. Remove wrapping paper and small toys from the floor.
• Try and stick to your pet’s normal routine as much as possible. Noises such as bangs from crackers, party poppers and balloons, or loud music from parties can cause your pet a great deal of stress. Have your pet microchipped if they are not already in case they get frightened and escape or run away – it will improve the chances of their safe return. Ensure your pet has a quiet place or room to retreat to during the festivities, particularly if you have visitors.
Pheromone therapy has proved successful in reducing your pet's stress during the festive period:
o Adaptil contains a synthetic canine appeasing pheromone that is produced naturally by a lactating bitch to comfort her puppies and help them cope with new and stressful stimuli and environments. Adaptil can benefit dogs of all ages, throughout their life.
o Feliway contains a synthetic feline facial pheromone that cats deposit onto objects in their environment when they feel safe and secure. Feliway can be used to increase the sense of familiarity and security of the environment, reducing fearful reactions to loud noises and stressful stimuli.
o Zylkene and Nutracalm are natural products which comforts animals in a similar way to Adaptil and Feliway and has been shown to help pets manage stressful situations. Zylkene contains the same molecule that helps babies relax after a milk feed and comes from a milk protein. Nutracalm contains various ingredients involved in helping to reduce stress and anxiety including L-Tryptophan and L-Theanine. Both Zylkene and Nutracalm are available in a capsule form which can be mixed into your pet's food.
• Winter can be a difficult time for pets that live outside, especially rabbits and guinea pigs. Regularly ensure that their hutches are warm and dry and in a sheltered position. Give them fresh food and water every day and check their water supply to make sure it has not become frozen.
• Christmas can be an enjoyable but also a stressful time. New pets need to come into a quiet and calm environment where you have time to settle them in carefully, so if you are planning a new pet it may be best to wait until the New Year.