Pets must wonder what on earth is happening when Christmas time arrives. Their usual routine and everyday potterings are turned upside down with the sudden appearance of a Christmas tree, decorations from loft-scented boxes, and presents arriving along with visitors. And none of it can be sniffed, touched, chewed or swallowed.
With the Christmas holidays just around the corner please consider how your festive celebrations may affect your pets, so we can all enjoy a safe and happy Christmas and New Year together. It is time to be vigilant and check that your beloved pooch can’t reach the spiky holly or the pretty poinsettia.
The tree & decorations
A real tree might suddenly appear in the lounge, but it is out of bounds to leg-cocking, so be careful where you arrange those electric lights. Even an artificial one is a sudden and strange intrusion. All those dangling baubles and shiny tinsel and even chocolates hanging down. Make sure you put yours on only the highest boughs and never leave the tree unattended. You would be astounded at the reach of a determined dog. Use shatterproof ornaments, and think about putting the tree up on a coffee table or even behind a fire guard. It is simply not worth the life-threatening issues that might occur if your dog decides any of these things are a tasty snack.
Make sure fairy lights and electric wires are ‘chew-proof’ from inquisitive puppies, kittens and even rabbits too.
Don’t forget that seasonal plants such as holly, poinsettia, ivy and mistletoe are all extremely toxic so please think very carefully when you’re busy decking out your halls.
As presents start to arrive, keep them well out of reach, because dogs don’t have handy calendars to tell them it is not Christmas yet. Ask givers if the gifts contain anything edible and again, don’t be afraid to put them up on a table to prevent any spoilers.
We had an interesting incident last year where an unwanted (coconut, much hated in our house) chocolate from an advent calendar rolled off the mantelpiece and into the happily waiting mouth of our little terrier Maisie. It was a traumatic moment for us as we retrieved it. Maisie adores chocolate and, unlike our other dogs, would do anything to earn it. Luckily this was the only incident and she is very small. If she were larger there would need to be no chocolates anywhere. This is not just a training issue (she is very good at being called away) but once they can access it, you have a serious problem. Chocolate is extremely poisonous to dogs, so don’t take the risk, not even once.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased urination, progressing to seizures and sometimes even death. Turkey bones can cause choking, constipation, as well as seriously damaging internal organs.
To satisfy your dog’s craving for chocolate without the risk, perhaps consider purchasing these chocolate drops for dogs, however, do ensure they maintain a healthy mouth afterwards. They are like us in that aspect, and so, toothpaste can fulfill that requirement.
Crinkly paper, smelling of other people’s houses and perhaps, their pets too, as well as the contents is tempting to any dog. Nobody taught them that it will spoil a surprise to have these opened before the day. My colleague Rosie, an esteemed behaviourist, still loves to tell us of the day her dog sneaked away from the celebrations only for them all to hear a loud hissing noise. When the dog came back he smelled strongly of a well-known men’s deodorant. Did he think the parcel was for him, or did he think the girls would be impressed with his new aroma?
Christmas is a time for feasting. For a dog, used to kibble each day, the smell of roast meat or mince pies will be a powerful temptation. It is easier for a dog to access these things whilst we are busy. Just a warning; onions, stuffing (contains onions and garlic), chocolate (theobromine), mince pies and Christmas pudding (raisins) are extremely harmful to dogs. Watch out for the turkey carcass, or any bones, as these can perforate internal organs. Sudden changes in a dog’s diet can also cause a stomach upset, so stick to his normal food wherever you can. Keep all foods well out of reach to avoid any emergency trips to the Vet, and warn your visitors who may not be used to lifting plates up out of the way.
No matter how tempting, don’t allow your dog to drink any alcohol, nor to help themselves from a carelessly placed glass. You can get special ‘dog drinks’ such as dog ‘beer’ (not real beer), but the results on the dog were not favourable and resulted in many trips to the dog toilet (and some where the dog did not quite make it in time). You have been warned!
If you are staying local and hosting your own party then please spare a thought for nervous pets with unfamiliar guests and when pulling crackers or popping party poppers; perhaps shut them securely in a quieter room with some soothing music, and check on them regularly.
Always make them a priority otherwise they may get scared, try to escape and perhaps never return.
A note on pets as a gift
Of course you should never give pets as presents, but if you are seriously thinking about getting your own furry friend, then please visit your local rescue shelter in January, where sadly there’ll be plenty of healthy but confused new in-mates to choose from and adopt.
Finally, I’d like to wish all you and your pets a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year!