As I write this, it is the 17th November – too early to mention the C word? Nevertheless, it’s always good to start getting prepared to keep our pets safe, as it’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas…
Many of our festive favourites contain ingredients that are dangerous for our pet’s health. Both chocolate and raisins are poisonous for dogs and cats, as are alcohol, onions and garlic. Of course, these are the obvious foods to watch out for, but also be careful with left over meat and bones in particular. We advise against giving your dog bones of any kind, because they can easily split and cause a choking hazard. Also, bones are a very high value food for most dogs, so they may become protective of it leading to defensive aggression, or wolf it down so quickly they cause their stomach to flip – a life threatening condition.
Be aware that human foods which seem a reasonable number of calories to us (a piece of your turkey sandwich, for example) make up a much higher proportion of your dog or cat’s daily calorie allowance. Thus, pets are likely to put on weight quickly over the festive period if they are given los of human snacks, or even a larger amount of pet specific treats – you would be surprised at the calorie content of these! Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of how much they are eating including asking visitors and children not to give or to limit treats.
A bright frosty morning is beautiful for a lovely walk with your dog. If your dog has long hair in-between their toes, take time to check that they haven’t accumulated little icicles and frozen mud there as this can be very uncomfortable. It may be beneficial to trim this fur to prevent this. Like humans, it can take a little longer for dogs to warm up their muscles and joints when out walking in the cold weather. This is particularly true for older dogs and those with joint pain – if you suffer from arthritis or stiff joints yourself you will have experienced this first hand. Overstretching cold muscles, joints and ligaments significantly increases the risk of injury and pain. We recommend that you and your dog warm up by walking on the lead for at least 5 minutes before more energetic exercise, and cool down the muscles after exercise in the same way. Out and about, be cautious of your pets eating grit laid down on the roads and licking puddles on or near cars as these may contain antifreeze (an ingredient in engine coolant) – both can be poisonous to cats and dogs.
On the big day itself, it can quickly get hectic and busy as you attempt to cook your Christmas dinner whilst also entertaining guests and serving copious amounts of mulled wine! If you’re hosting this year, make sure there is a quiet, sheltered area for pets. For dogs this could mean a crate covered with a blanket or keeping a utility room free from festivities. For cats, place cardboard boxes high up on desks or chest of drawers in quieter rooms such as upstairs so they can hide if they choose to. As well as food, be careful your pets don’t ingest or chew anything like wrapping paper, presents or tree decorations. Keep them occupied with treat balls or their own toys instead.
If you aren’t hosting Christmas and you need to travel with your pets, it’s a good idea to get them accustomed to the car first if they aren’t already used to car journeys. This is especially important for new dogs and cats as well as puppies and kittens. This will take several weeks or even longer, starting with putting them in the car and positively reinforcing this behaviour with praise and treats or toys. Then progress to shutting the door, then turning on the engine, making small trips to nice places and so on to longer journeys. It is a legal requirement to ensure pets are properly restrained and safe when travelling. Stop regularly on longer journeys to allow your dog to stretch their legs and relieve themselves, offer water regularly and have a window open a little if possible.
Most importantly, be sure to have lots of fun with your pets during the holidays – wishing you all a very merry Christmas from all of us here at Blackwater Vets!