The silly season is an exciting time of year, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations giving us plenty of reasons to let loose and celebrate. With an increase of visitors, noises, tasty treats, shiny new toys, and interesting smells, this time of year can be overwhelming for our pets.
Follow these six simple tips to make sure your pet stays safe and enjoys Christmas as much as you do!
1. Check that Christmas treats are pet safe
We get it - it's tempting to treat our pets at Christmas. Keep in mind that a lot of human foods can be toxic to pets so if there’s any degree of confusion, it’s best to err on the side of caution and give them animal treats instead!
Here are some foods of concern:
Fruit cake and Christmas pudding: raisins (and grapes) are toxic to cats and dogs. They are toxic to their kidneys and can cause lethargy, excessive thirst, vomiting and in serious cases can be fatal.
Alcohol and caffeine: these are both toxic for pets.
Avocados: these contain persin which causes symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhoea to cardiac arrest and death. Birds are particularly sensitive to persin but avocado should not be fed to any pets.
Chocolate: for cats and dogs, chocolate can cause elevated heart rate, seizures, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Macadamia nuts: can cause vomiting, weakness and tremors if eaten by dogs.
Onions and chives: these contain disulphides and sulfoxides, which can damage red blood cells if eaten by cats and dogs.
Pits and seeds of peaches, plums, persimmons, and apples: these contain a substance that degrades to cyanide, which is toxic. The pits of peaches are also choking hazards that can cause blockages and damage to the intestine.
Xylitol (a common ingredient in sugarless treats and sugarless gum): causes hypoglycaemia in dogs, which can lead to seizures and liver failure in severe cases.
Sweet-corn cobs: these can cause blockages in the small intestine that may need to be removed surgically. Don’t let your dog chew on the cob.
Turkey skin/pork crackling/sausages/fatty meats: these can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and may lead to pancreatitis.
2. Choose your decorations wisely
The foods listed above are not the only thing your pets might try to eat this Christmas. When decorating your home for the festivities, ensure your decorations are not a hazard for your pets.
Make sure your tree is safe, avoid toxic plants, keep your animals from chewing on power cords or lights, be careful of sharp and delicate ornaments, monitor lit candles, and, if you own cats, skip the tinsel to avoid accidental ingestion and costly surgery!
Try these animal friendly decorating tips instead:
- Make sure your Christmas tree is safely secured to the floor, wall or ceiling and cannot easily topple over.
- Switch to battery or solar operated candles.
- Decorate with shatterproof ornaments such as those made from plastic, wood or paper.
- Keep lights and small decorations out of reach of animals.
4. Beware Christmas tree water
Pet parents who bring live pines, spruces, and firs inside for Christmas should make sure the water reservoir inside of the tree stand is not easily accessible to dogs and cats. As the tree drinks water, it can release sometimes-toxic sap into the stand that smells tasty to pets.
Many fresh trees are also preserved with pesticides and fertilizer water additives, including aspirin. Aspirin can be fatal for cats because they lack a necessary protein in their livers to break down the drug. While veterinarians occasionally prescribe aspirin for dogs to treat various conditions, too much can prove deadly.
Block access to the tree stand by thoroughly covering it with aluminum foil and a well-wrapped tree skirt.
5. Make festive costumes an option
Even though pets can look adorable in festive outfits like Santa hats or elf costumes, not all pets enjoy getting dressed up. See if your pet looks comfortable in their costume, if they don’t it’s best to let them be!
6. Give your pet a safe place
Chances are, you’ll have plenty of family and friends stopping by this holiday season. Not every pet is as welcoming to new guests in their home, some may feel nervous and unsettled. It is important to provide your pet with a safe place so they can get away from the action if they need a break, such as a spare room or their crate.
Also, keep in mind that some of your guests may not be comfortable around cats and dogs or know how to properly interact with animals - especially kids. So be sure to supervise each interaction to check your pet is comfortable.
Finally Fireworks can be terrifying for pets. Here is a list of tips for preparing your pet for fireworks displays:
- Keep pets indoors when possible. The walls and roof will help to soften the noise and will also contain them safely.
- Prepare your pet for loud noises during the day by putting on the TV or radio. Turn the volume up progressively throughout the day, so when the fireworks display commences, the existing noise will create a distraction
- Avoid fussing over your pet. Carry on as normal, as this will reassure your pet nothing is wrong. You can use treats and games to distract them and encourage calm behaviour.
- Ensure your pet’s microchip and identification tag details are up to date. Unfortunately, many pets escape during fireworks displays and can be found very far from home.