Just as our dogs have gotten through the firework season, Christmas comes along with new challenges to survive! According to veterinarians, Christmas is one of the most dangerous times of the year for our pets. So here are a few pointers to help keep your pet safe this Christmas, so that you and your dog can enjoy the holiday season without any dramas or expensive bills.
Christmas often means delivery men knocking at the door, visitors, time away and generally rushing about trying to get things sorted. This can be quite upsetting for our dog, as they do not understand exactly what is going on. So, it is important that you try to keep to your dog’s routine as much as possible. Try to walk and feed him at his usual times. Keep up with his obedience training and teach him to relax on his own in an allocated space. Have somewhere safe for him to go to if it all gets too much for him. It is at these times that your dog crate will be invaluable as his safe haven.
Before visitors arrive, it is a good idea to give him a nice long walk, to tire him out and then let him rest in his crate, perhaps with a stuffed Kong to keep him occupied and settled. If you don’t have a crate, then perhaps putting him in a safe room behind a dog gate will ensure that he is calm and not bothered, especially if there are children about and you cannot supervise them together. Remember, no matter how friendly your dog is or how old the child is, children and dogs should always be supervised together. By all means, have your dog involved with the festivities and all the fuss, but if you cannot supervise your dog, then ensure he is kept nice and safe in his own area, where nobody can bother him or feed him. If you need to crate train him, this book is great for teaching you how to do it positively.
Other things to watch out for are the decorations we put at this time of year. The most obvious one being the Christmas tree. Pine needles are sharp and they can get stuck in your dog’s pads and worse in his throat, if he decides to eat them. Many dog owners opt for an artificial Christmas tree for this reason. Also, ensure your dog cannot get to the tree’s water, as the pine sap can be toxic to your dog. A good idea is to put a barrier around your Christmas tree so that your dog cannot get to it, knock the tree over, drink the water, get hold of the tinsel and decorations, especially if they are breakable (glass) or small where he can swallow them or get hold of the Christmas lights. A good idea is to use a play pen around your Christmas tree. Ensure you unplug your tree lights when you go out. You can spray the cables with bitter apple, Tabasco sauce or put them inside a PVC pipe, to deter your dog from chewing the cables. Decorations can fall and break causing a lot of damage to your dog, so opt for unbreakable ones and big enough so that your dog cannot swallow them. Some people choose to decorate the top and middle of the tree and leave the bottom part without decorations, so that the dog cannot get to them. Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, so never hang anything edible, especially chocolate, in your tree, as this will entice your dog to jump up to get to it. Try to keep all toys away from your dog, as he can choke on them or get stuck in his digestive track. Clear up after you have unwrapped your presents to ensure your dog cannot get to any wrapping paper, ribbons or toys.
Keep all chocolate well away from dogs at this time of year (i.e. not hanging in the tree, under the tree or in Christmas stockings), as your dog may suffer from theobromine poisoning if he eats it. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased urination, progressing to seizures and sometimes even death. Symptoms can start within 6-12 hours of your dog eating chocolate. Different chocolates contain different amounts of theobromine, with dark or cooking chocolate being the most toxic. Half of a 1/2 lb block of dark chocolate contains enough theobromine to be dangerous to a 20lb dog.
Another thing to keep off your dog is Christmas cake, as raisins and sultanas can be toxic to your dog. Some dogs can be fine with it, but some have become very ill with it, and it’s not really known why. Try not to give your dog left-overs, as they may upset his stomach and definitely do not give him any cooked bones, as these will splinter and puncture his digestive system.
Other things to watch out at this time of year is anti-freeze, which can cause irreversible liver failure. We also tend to decorate our homes with plants which are poisonous to our dogs like holly, mistletoe, ivy, lilies, poinsettias and many more. So keep your dog out of the way of these. Also, ensure he cannot knock any candles you put out and that he doesn’t knock anything into the fireplace.
Having your dog in a safe place will ensure that he is not fed any unwanted food, given alcohol, teased or being forced to interact in a manner he is not used to. He will also not be in the way as you are rushing around getting things sorted, or get stepped on or have things dropped on him with all the hussle and bustle. Also, he may get frightened by poppers, balloons, champagne bottles and other loud noises, which may cause him to run off in a fright. In fact, you will be able to relax much more knowing he is safe in his own rest area and if you want him to be part of the celebrations, then ensure you can give him your full attention, so that no harm comes to him.
Be aware that it can get very cold at this time of year and you may need to invest in a coat (ideally hi-vis for those dark nights) or boots for your dog, to ensure he is warm and comfortable. If your dog lives outside, make sure he has plenty of protection from rain, snow and wind and that his water bowl is not frozen.
Lastly, be prepared so that if anything happens you have covered all avenues. Find out your veterinarian’s opening times and emergency number. Ideally have your dog microchipped and ensure he wears a tag with your details in case he gets frightened and runs away or gets lost. I recommend that you put your mobile number in it, so that if he is found you can be contacted wherever you are. If you do not want any of your details on his tag, then you can register him with your local council and they will give you a tag with a unique ID number and a telephone number so that the council can contact you directly. You may also want to insure your pet, in case he needs emergency veterinary care.
Most pet related Christmas dangers are easy to avoid so just have fun and remember to keep your dog safe!