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Christmas Safety Tips For Dogs

Pet safety tips during the holiday season

The festive season is here, and that means excitement in the air for both humans and animals. 

Pets like cats and dogs are part of the family, so it's only natural that you want them to have the best Christmas possible. Whether it’s buying them gifts, feeding them extra treats or making them a Christmas dinner, our pets get a lot of extra attention over the festive period.

While it’s all done out of love, Christmas can be a time of overstimulation for pets where they’re meeting new people, eating new things and sometimes wreaking havoc. To keep them safe and avoid any complications, follow our pet safety tips for the holiday season.

Top tips to keep your pets safe at Christmas

Keep an eye on the food they consume

Our pets love to get in on the Christmas food, and it can be so tempting to feed them any leftovers. Unfortunately, typical human Christmas foods like stuffing, chicken or turkey skin, cured meats, chocolates, gravy and cooked bones could be harmful or even fatal for dogs. It is recommended to avoid giving your pet any scraps from the table, as the change in fat content in their diet will likely cause gastrointestinal upsets and even worse pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

It sounds a bit boring, but most Christmas food is seasoned with garlic, onions and herbs which taste delicious but can be poisonous to dogs. So before you feed them those pigs in blankets, remember that they shouldn’t eat processed meats loaded with garlic and seasoning.

To keep a vet visit firmly off the cards, avoid feeding your pets Christmas food, and ensure you hide any gifts that feature chocolate, artificial sweeteners (eg. Xylitol) and alcohol.

Watch out for the tinsel

Tinsel can be seen as a play thing for both cats and dogs, but sadly it can be lethal. Professor Gail Anderson from the University of Adelaide warns against allowing your pets to play with tinsel.

"Pets eating foreign material such as paper, tinsel and ribbons is common at this time of year," Professor Anderson says. 

"This foreign material does not block the gut immediately but passes into the small intestine and can cause the gut to concertina on itself and cause obstruction slowly. The animal will go off food and vomit occasionally until the bowel is completely blocked, when vomiting will occur frequently and illness progresses rapidly.”

Don’t let them eat wrapping paper

Wrapping paper is less dangerous because small amounts don't cause blockages of the intestines in the same way. When your pets swallow wrapping paper, if it’s not a huge amount, there’s a good chance that it will just come out the other end.

However, wrapping paper can also be a choking hazard, especially for smaller breeds and younger animals so be sure to tidy up paper and ribbons after opening presents.

Put your Christmas baubles high up

Baubles on the tree can look like balls to our dogs, and therefore can easily be confused with something to chew and play with. This should be avoided at all costs, as they can cause intestinal blockages if swallowed. Some are made out of glass or have shape edges so could also harm your dog if chewed on. 

Baubles on the tree should be placed higher up, out of reach of your dog’s curious nose.

Keep an eye on your Christmas lights

Cats are slightly more dainty when it comes to Christmas lights - they might paw them and cause the tree to collapse, but they’re usually quite good at darting out of the way and avoiding injury. Dogs on the other hand can wreak havoc with Christmas lights, chewing them and risking choking, intestinal blockages and even electrocution.

Most adult dogs can be trusted with Christmas lights, but if you have a puppy you’ll need to keep an eye on them at all times.

And any candles

Carols by candlelight sounds so romantic, but when our pets are around candles it can be a risk. Don’t leave your pets unattended with candles, because you just never know what they might do. 

Keep your pets out of the heat 

In Australia, Christmas can be a really hot period. Amongst all the excitement, drinking and socialising, it can be easy to forget that our pets may have been out in the heat for extended periods.

Keep them inside during the midday sun between 11am and 3pm.

Fill up their water bowl regularly

Similarly, if you’re hosting a family gathering, your last thought is going to be to fill up your dog’s water bowl. But when it’s hot, it’s so vital that your pets have enough water to drink.

Create a cosy corner 

And last but not least, make your pets a cosy corner where they can escape the hustle and bustle of Christmas for a while.

If you have cats, they will probably hide or make themselves comfortable wherever they see fit. That could be outside under a tree, on your bed or even under a piece of furniture where they can be left alone.

Dogs, however, aren’t always as forward thinking, and can easily spend the whole day with the family without taking a moment to themselves. Every couple of hours it can be a good idea to lead your dog to their cosy corner, crate or quiet space where they can have a little rest and curl up for a nap.

Although it is a busy period of the year, try to keep your pet active with regular exercise or walks. Like for us humans, regular exercise will keep them more settled and relaxed during the holiday season.

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