Keeping Pets Healthy and Happy at Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! But a busy house full of guests and noise can be very stressful for animals, and all those tempting decorations and foods can pose significant risks. Read on to see how to ensure your four-legged companion enjoys the festivities safely.

The season of cheer brings with it all sorts of new sights and smells, and a change in routine for animals. Help your pet have a healthy and happy Christmas by being prepared, and by following RSPCA NSW’s top tips.

Noise

If you’re hosting celebrations this year, exercise pets before visitors arrive. This helps them de-stress, and more inclined to nap once festivities begin. It’s also important to create a quiet, safe place for your pet away from the festivities, as even the most social animals will need a break. Dogs can also enjoy the time alone to play with enrichments such as a filled Kong. It may also help to play music or leave the television on to mask the sounds made by guests.

The same applies during New Year’s Eve festivities, when many pets will struggle with the sounds of fireworks. An additional risk is that animals may flee to escape the noise, and become lost. It’s therefore vital to keep microchip and registration details up to date, and ensure pets are wearing appropriate identification.

Food

Christmas food is among some of the most dangerous for animals to consume, so resist that pleading face, or you could spend Christmas at a veterinary emergency hospital. Pets should not be given alcohol, avocado, chocolate, Christmas pudding, coffee, cooked bones, currants, fruit cake, grapes, gravy, ham, lollies, macadamia nuts, marinades, onion, pork, raisins or sugarless gum.

Some pets will do anything to get their paws on Christmas treats, jumping onto tables or mauling through bags. Keep an eye on animals and be on the lookout for any changes in appearance or behaviour. These will vary depending on the type of pet and food eaten, but can include diarrhoea, excessive panting, lack of coordination, muscle twitching, poor breathing and vomiting. If your pet eats anything he shouldn’t, RSPCA NSW advises taking him to an RSPCA veterinary hospital or your local veterinarian as quickly as possible.

You can find out more about foods your pet shouldn’t eat by clicking here and here.

Decorations

Christmas decorations, including candles, should be kept well out of their reach of pets. A plastic or glass tree ornament may look like a tennis ball to a dog, but if one breaks in his mouth, it could damage his tongue and intestines. Edible decorations, such as candy canes, are also tempting, but could prove fatal. Hanging decorations at the top of the tree will help reduce this risk.

Sparkly ribbon, tinsel, tree lights and wrapping paper also pose threats. Cats may enjoy chewing and pawing these, but risk strangulation. And if swallowed, gift wrapping materials can obstruct an animal’s intestines. Make sure to clean these up quickly, and look out for the warning signs of consumption, including decreased appetite, diarrhoea, listlessness, vomiting and weight loss.

Floral arrangements containing holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias are all poisonous and potentially fatal to pets.

You can find out more about toxic plants which are dangerous for your pet by clicking here.

Make it special

If you’re looking for safe ways to make your pet’s Christmas memorable, try mixing in treat food in with her regular food, or creating a treasure hunt of regular dry food. There are plenty of animal-friendly recipes online, such as pooch-friendly pupcakes. Just ensure the recipe doesn’t contain anything that could upset her stomach. And of course, spend plenty of quality time with your pet with walks and games.