Claire Grant of Dog First Aid Devon and Cornwall shares her tips to help keep your dog safe this Christmas
For many of us, Christmas is a magical time full of fun, laughter and maybe a little over indulging! From the time we first see the Coca Cola ad on TV, our routine starts to change. It’s gradual at first but by the time the big day comes around our lives are very different to the rest of the year. For a lot of us, it’s the only time we see certain friends and family, ease off on the diet slightly and give in to our Christmas movie guilty pleasures (or is that just me?!).
However, while this time of year brings welcome changes to many humans, the difference in routine can cause havoc for our dog’s state of mind and physical health if we don’t remain vigilant as owners.
Doubtless you’ll know some of the more obvious hazards that Christmas poses – the food dangers such as chocolate, raisins and mince pies all being toxic to dogs. But did you know that onions (and other members of the onion family), macadamia nuts, blue cheese and artificial sweeteners, found in many Christmas sweets and certain peanut butters, are also a danger. Please contact your vet immediately (whatever the time of day or night) so they can advise you on the most appropriate action to take should your dog ingest any of these foods.
Please also be aware that, while many pet shops will be selling them, festive-themed rawhides may not always be a safe treat for your dog. Not only do they contain lots of chemicals due to the way they are processed during production, they can easily cause blockages leading to choking and breathing difficulties. Thankfully there are many alternatives now on the market and it is worth doing your research when looking for something your dog can safely chew on. When in doubt, a raw carrot is a good option.
It may be tempting to allow your dog to over indulge by giving them an extra treat or some leftover Christmas dinner but try to avoid giving them anything that may be too rich and remember that they have a waistline to maintain too! By all means treat your dog, after all, they are part of the family, but think about the short and long term consequences before you do so.
It’s not only the physical health risks that we need to bear in mind to keep your dog safe this Christmas though. For some dogs, even minor changes in routine can leave them feeling uneasy. Things like changes in their exercise routine, more visitors than usual and even the addition of a Christmas tree can cause stress, so it’s important that certain things remain consistent for our furry friends. Try to ensure that their bed or crate remains in the same place at all times, ideally away from the celebrations, so that they always have a safe place to find sanctuary in and make sure that when they do retreat to their safe place, they are left alone to rest. Your guests may want to make a fuss of your little cutie but, in this instance, your dog’s needs should come before those of your visitors.
If your dog is particularly sensitive to change or is scared of the inevitable New Years Eve fireworks, speak to your vet about Adaptil, or try natural ‘Pet Remedy’ which may help them to cope, and always have a Kong packed with something safe and yummy that they can lick. This will not only keep your dog mentally stimulated but it will also help to calm them if they are feeling anxious. Top tip – natural yogurt with bits of apple, no pips, or blueberries, that have been frozen into the Kong are healthy alternative to the more common kong fillers like cheese or peanut butter. If you do decide to use peanut butter for your dog’s kong, opt for a dog friendly version from a pet shop or buy organic to avoid the risk of xylitol poisoning.
Before I wrap up, there are few more things to be aware of during the festive period. Certain plants like poinsettias, amaryllis, mistletoe, ivy and pine sap from Christmas trees can all cause tummy upset if ingested and be aware of small parts on decorations or children’s toys that could pose a choking hazard.
So, in summary, enjoy the festivities but please consider the effect that they may be having on your dog. So keep your dog safe this Christmas and prepare them for routine changes, give them space to relax without being disturbed and keep all the extra food out of their reach. Remember, even the most well-behaved dog can become a counter surfer with all the extra temptation!
This article was written by Claire Grant, Dog First Aid Franchise Partner for Devon and Cornwall