Friday, December 20, 2013

Tips for surviving the Christmas season

Christmas is a time of cheer for humans, but for pets it can mean a change in routine, new and potentially dangerous objects around the house, more visitors entering the house, higher noise levels, not to mention all those great smells wafting from the kitchen.

Many of the things that make Christmas a time of cheer can impact and pose a threat to the health of our pet. Read our tips below to prevent your pet from requiring a visit to the vet these holidays. Additionally, keep an eye on your pet and if it exhibits any abnormal behaviour which could indicate a health problem, take it to the vet immediately.

My pet loves playing with Christmas decorations. How can I decrease the risk of illness or injury?

Christmas trees, decorations such as ribbon and tinsel, and presents all pose a risk to the health of many pets if consumed.
  • Some pets are attracted to sparkly items and will paw them or chew them. Keep an eye on your pet for such behaviour and put any sparkly items well above its reach. Things to beware of are flickering tree lights, tinsel, sparkly ribbon or wrapping paper and small and sparkly ornaments.
  • Round ball-like decorations may seem similar to a tennis ball to your dog, however, if broken in the mouth, the shards of plastic or glass can cause lacerations to the tongue and intestines and require surgery. Avoid hanging such ornaments or locate them only towards the top of the tree where your dog can’t reach them.
  • Beware of what you hang on your tree. Edible treats such as candy canes or chocolate may be attractive to your pet and harmful if consumed.
  • Cats in particular love string, and tinsel can seem like a very attractive toy. If dogs or cats eat tinsel it can pose an extreme risk to their health, obstructing the intestines and often creating a surgical emergency. Symptoms may include: decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, listlessness and weight loss.
Can I feed my pet Christmas food scraps?

You should always remember that pets are not humans and have different digestive systems to us. Make sure any food that you give your pet is in keeping with its standard diet.

Christmas is a time of giving, but some of us tend to get carried away when it comes to providing our pets with treats. Many human foods can cause serious illness to our four legged friends, take caution when choosing what treats to give your pet.

Turkey, ham, and all meats
  • Most cooked meats are ok to feed to dogs and cats in small quantities
  • Do not feed your dog or cat cooked bones (they can splinter easily and damage your dog’s throat and intestines).
  • Keep the meat scraps free of gravy and marinades (while we enjoy pepper, chilli, soy sauce and fats, these items may upset your pets stomach).
Chocolate, Lollies and Christmas Pudding
  • Chocolate: The ingestion of chocolate by pets can result in vomiting, diarrhoea and hyperactivity, as well as muscle twitching, increased urination or excessive panting. Chocolate contains a naturally occurring stimulant called theobromine; extreme poisoning can kill your pet.
  • Christmas Pudding: Many pets have intolerances to dairy foods so Christmas pudding is not safe to feed your pet. Grapes and raisins can also be toxic to pets; so reach for a pet-food treat instead.
  • Lollies: and sugar-free sweet products can contain Xylitol which is highly toxic to pets. Just a small amount can cause lethargy, loss of balance, permanent brain damage, liver failure and death.
If you want to give your pet treats, purchase specially made treats for pets such as gourmet biscuits or check the pet food section of your supermarket.

What else should I be cautious of around the festive season?
  • Christmas Plants and Flowers such as Poinsettias, amaryllis, mistletoe and holly are poisonous to your pets. Make sure they are out of their reach, as consumption could result in illness or death
  • Fireworks: Many pets experience distress and anxiety during fireworks displays and as a result try to escape. Events such as Carols by Candlelight and New Years Eve often include a fireworks display, so caution should be taken during this period.
How can I make Christmas safe and comfortable for my pet?
  • After unwrapping the presents, quickly clean up any plastic, ribbons and bows that could strangle or be swallowed by your pet.
  • If you are going out or expecting visitors, exercise your pet before they arrive so that it is restful and happy to nap once the festivities start
  • Let your pet have a quiet spot to itself if you have visitors or the house gets noisy; pets need a rest and some quiet time too or they can become stressed and anxious.
How can I make Christmas special for my pet?

We love our pets, and during Christmas time you may experience the urge to make them feel extra special. Here are some tips on treating your pet in a safe and healthy way:
  • Change the way you feed your pet: On Christmas day create a treasure hunt through the house or garden for its regular dry food.
  • Mix its regular food with a treat: small treat food such as mixing dry biscuits with some tinned food
  • Recipes for making edible treats and meals for many varieties of pet are widely available on the internet. Use your common sense to make sure there is nothing in the recipe that might upset your pet’s stomach.
  • Games: Spend extra quality time with your pet by playing games or going for extra walks.

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