Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, all those presents and decorations, not to mention the yummy food! However, there are problems we see commonly with pets around the holiday season that are directly connected with the festivities and this blog is about recognising and helping to prevent them.
Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and there is often a lot more of it around at this time of year! The basic rule is the posher the chocolate, the worse it is, as the more expensive brands contain higher percentages of cocoa solids. The cocoa solids are ingredient which is dangerous and they can cause agitation, palpitations and damage both the heart and the kidneys. If your dog has eaten chocolate and you are concerned, call your vet and keep the packaging, so you can tell them the cocoa solid percentage. Chocolate poisoning is treated by making the dog sick, putting them on a drip and giving them sedatives. Ensure during the festive period that all treats are kept well out of reach of dogs (don’t forget the ones on the tree!) and that the only chocolate they are given is especially for dogs.
It is tempting, when we are tucking into a fabulous spread for Christmas lunch, to share this with our pets. However, their bodies are less able to cope with unusually rich food than us and nobody wants to be clearing up vomit and diarrhoea on Christmas day. If you do give your pet a treat, stick to small amounts of lean meat and vegetables, avoid rich gravy or dressings. Also, NEVER feed cats or dogs turkey bones. These can cause huge damage to the guts and sometimes require expensive surgery to remove them. Another thing to avoid is giving Christmas pudding or cake to your dog, as raisins are very toxic to dogs.
Tinsel and decorations
Cats find tinsel fascinating and will often play with it if they get the chance. However, this can cause problems. The way cat’s heads are put together means they are prone to getting things stuck around the back of their throat. The small fronds of tinsel are just the right size to get caught here, especially if the cat has been chewing at them and they usually require an anaesthetic to remove them. You should also take care to keep any delicate or glass decorations or baubles out of reach, as they could cause a pet significant damage if they are broken or eaten. Sometimes, especially if your animals are young or lively, it can be best to dispense with the posh Christmas decs until they are older or calm down and stick to the ordinary plastic ones instead!
Christmas is a time for socialising, which often means a regular supply of visitors to the house. Most animals will cope with this fine and enjoy all the extra attention, but some will find this very stressful. If you know your cat or dog dislikes having people in the house, ensure they have the means to escape from them and don’t force them to be sociable. Also, stick as close to their normal routine as possible, which help them feel more settled.
A great many pets find fireworks with their bangs and flashes very frightening and they are commonly set off at this time of year. It is important you deal with this fear correctly to ensure that you do not inadvertently make it worse. Firstly, prepare a ‘den’ for your pet somewhere in your home where they feel safe. It should be warm and cosy with a covered top as pets will feel most secure being completely surrounded. Try using the DAP or Feliway diffusers to calm pets, these release comforting pheromones which can help your pet feel much more secure. When the fireworks are happening, keep the curtains closed, play the TV or radio to drown out the noise and, hard though it is, try not to comfort them when they are scared as this will only praise the behaviour and can make them worse. Finally, consider starting a desensitising programme to help your pet cope with the fireworks once the season is over, your vet will be able to advise you on this and provide CDs of firework noises to play.
If you have questions about this, or any other pet related subject, you should contact your vet.
Cat is the vet for petstreet.co.uk an on-line social networking site for pet lovers.