Christmas and the New Year is a time of joy and cheer for us and our families and is also often a time of stress, rushing about and pulling your hair out!
Here are some handy tips for you to help maintain your sanity and keep you and your dog happy and safe over the festive season.
Your Christmas Tree & Decorations:
Once a year we fill our rooms up with trees, dangling objects, lights and even hang food around in odd places. We know what is going on, but our dogs probably just think we have gone a bit nuts in the nicest of ways!
- Electrics: Make sure you keep your tree lights and any other electrical decorations safely out of your dogs reach-especially if your dog is inclined to investigate or chew through exposed electrical cord. Electrocution can easily be caused.
- Trees: If you have a real tree, the needles which fall daily can become stuck in your dog’s paws and are also dangerous if eaten, vacuum daily and keep your dog (and other animals) away from them. Don’t let your dog drink the tree water. Some dogs like to mark out against them (why else did human bring a tree indoors but to save going out in the cold?) so bear that in mind too!
- Tree Decor: From a dogs point of view – the Christmas tree with its dangling goodies is pretty tempting and begging to be investigated, trees can easily topple over especially once weighed down with decorations and lights etc so try to secure the tree down so it does not fall over so easily if bumped into by your dog (or wagging tail). Trees do tend to look better by the window rather than being worn round the house by your enthusiatic dog!
Dogs can easily be caught up in tinsel and find hanging decorations particularly appealing and ripe for pulling off. Life will be a lot easier and safer if you limit your dog’s access to the area if you need to and don’t leave tree and dog unattended!
- Plants: Many Christmas plants including Mistletoe, Holly, Pot Pourrie and Poinsettias are toxic, keep them out of your dogs reach and seek immediate veterinary advice if you think your pet has ingested.
- Decorations: Those which are edible (or not when they are ten years old) to humans, e.g. hanging chocolate tree decorations may be sniffed out by your dog with his amazing nose detection capabilities, so keep these away. Chocolate is just pure poison to your dogs system, tinsel, tin foil, cling film etc can also be dangerous if swallowed and cause serious internal problems. Fairy lights look lovely, problems can arise when dogs get tangled up in any loose wires left lying around.
- Spray snow – the type in the cans, is attractive on the insides of your windows, check you dog isn’t interested in licking/scratching it off, chemicals=poisons.
- Blu-tack and similar adhesives may cause drooling, vomiting and/or diarrhoea if eaten by your dog. Silica gel found in packaging can have the same affect-contact your vet for advice.
- Plastic bags and balloons are also a hazard-keep them away from your dog.
- Candles: If you like to use candles-do place where your dog, e.g. your dogs waggy tail, will not accidentally knock over.
- Your goodies: Many dogs will be intrigued by the sudden appearance of wrapped boxes and who could blame them, so if you don’t want yours unwrapped by Santa’s little helper, keep them boxes hidden!
- Wrappings, trimmings etc can be very dangerous if chewed or swallowed, so keep safely away when not in use & bin after.
- Doggie presents: Make sure your dogs own Christmas present(s) are ’dog proof’ – suitable for your dog, robust enough and safe for use.
Christmas Day can in some households seem like a day gone mad from a dog’s view, then there is the excitement of the present opening, the paper, the noise, all those socks too!
If you have more than one dog and are giving out a present to each dog bear in mind how each dog is going to react with their new possession around the other dogs, sharing might be right out the window to begin with. Give your dogs space and maintain control – it’s not like you ‘re too busy right? You are after all supermum and superdad – dogs need your help too.
Festive Food, more food, did I mention there’s more food and treats:
Some of the foods we love to fill up on over Christmas are actually toxic for our dogs. It can be a tough job to keep a watch on your dog even with the extra set of eyes you have developed in the back of your head, but you’ll need to be one step ahead.
Cooked foods left on top of the oven are very tempting to your dog and many a time the whole lot has been reached and knocked back in one or two gulps; bones, trimmings, stuffing the lot-this can lead to an expensive out-of-hours veterinary visit or if you are lucky it will pass though and you will need one hell of a shovel or plastic bag out in the garden on Boxing Day, plus you’ve missed your lunch so watch out.
- Diet – We often get carried away with extra festive treats and unusual foods this time of year, it’s nice to include our dogs and treat them too – but don’t forget that a sudden intake of unusual foods, or too much of anything is likely to cause diarrhoea and/or vomiting, so watch out for how much and what exactly your dog is being offered – keep an eye on any guests sneaking in the treats too, or Fido will end up with an upset tummy and it could be a messy and uncomfortable Christmas!
- Chocolate is a definite NO! It contains a chemical called Theobromine which is actually poisonous to dogs and even just a small amount can be lethal for some. Chocolate poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and death. If you want to treat your dog – buy treats designed for dogs, our rescue dogs loves to chew on a carrot or apple, keep them safe and keep them healthy. If you suspect chocolate poisoning – contact a vet immediately.
- Sweetcorn isn’t digested and corn on the cob is very dangerous, cobs can easily cause an obstruction which will require surgery to remove if it doesn’t kill your dog. If you have corn on the cob-dispose of the cobs where your dog can’t reach and never ever feed to your dog.
- Bones – you may have more cooked meats around and your dog is sure to have spotted exactly where all his goodies are! Bones can be dangerous, cooked ones becoming brittle and easily breaking into sharp pieces which can choke a dog, don’t give anything you wouldn’t usually.
- Coffee – alcohol – sweets – yummy for us but NO NO NO for our canine friends. Give your dog a nice Christmas and keep well away.
- Grapes, raisins and sultanas should not be fed to your dog, these are now known to be toxic to dogs and can cause poisoning. Cases of kidney failure have been documented. Other foods such as liquorice, avocados, onions and some nuts can also cause problems.A poisons leaflet produced by the British Veterinary Association is available online here.
Fun, parties & visitors over the holidays:
Some dogs will enjoy extra people around, for some it can be very stressful-just because you are enjoying ‘festive fun’ it, doesn’t mean your dog must too.
- If you’re hosting a party/get together: Some dogs will becomeoverexcited or frightened when around unusual noises such as children toys, balloons popping, party bangers, flashing lights etc and intoxicated visitors can also cause a dog to feel uneasy – being grabbed, cuddled and told your a good boy over and over by auntie who has hit the sherry early is not a dog’s idea of a fun day out, so plan in advance to help keep your best friend relaxed. If your dog is known not to cope well with these types of situations, or you haven’t owned your dog long enough to find out, don’t take chances, be ready with your dog’s ‘retreat area’:
Make sure your dog(s) has a retreat somewhere familiar where he can go and relax away from all the noise and excitement if he needs too or you need to put him somewhere safe, for example a room upstairs or a dog crate somewhere familiar and quiet. This is especially important if you are likely to become putting it bluntly – drunk and not much use to your dog. Provide some favourite chews, or a stuffed Kong to help keep him occupied,where he likes to be, leave the radio/TV on to help block out some noise, make sure he has the remote control handy too but don’t let him on the karaoke! Exercise in advance to help him settle down whilst you get on enjoying yourself!
- Try plugging in a DAP diffuser two weeks before your busiest week and keep it plugged in over the Xmas to help relax your dog if needed.
- Extra guests: Many households will receive extra guests, relatives and often young children, so bear in mind that if your dog isn’t used to the extra attention, noise etc, have a quiet retreat as mentioned above. If your dog is happy mixing (not the cocktails hopefully) – keep an eye out for him becoming too excited and step in if that is the case.
- Ground Rules: When your family and friends arrive, try laying down some house rules – ask your guests not to overfeed your dog or leave food and alcohol on the floor to help keep party food and drinks out of reach to your dog. But remember, when the booze is flowing, rules are out the window so be prepared in advance, you don’t want to end up trying to pull a trapped object out of your dog’s throat after he’s just found himself a plateful under the chair.
- Children: Letting off steam at Christmas is all part of the fun, they are off school, enjoying themselves, excited and often charging about. Parents are knackered, stressed out and tired. It’s at times like this when dogs can be let down unintentionally and placed in awkward situations.
Please do not leave children and dogs alone attended-always make sure children and dogs are supervised by a competent adult at all times. If it is too much for your dog – just remove your dog from the situation, be vigilant and prevent accidents.
- Exercise: Try your best to keep your dogs normal routine as much as possible – getting away from the washing up with the excuse of walking the dog does come in handy!
- Fireworks are often used over the holiday season, especially on New Years Eve, read up on our firework advice here.
- Extra people in and out increases the risk of your dog being let out of your home by mistake; always make sure doors are closed and that you know where your dog is – safely inside. Each year dogs go missing during the holiday period – is your dog wearing a collar and Id tag, is your dog identi-chipped?
- Pain killers and human drugs for hangovers etc often get left lying around and these packets can be of interest to your dog, if you think your dog has swallowed-contact you vet.
- Travelling: If you are visiting and taking your dog with you – don’t forget to pack his bag too! Check in advance that your dog is welcome, exercise beforehand to help him settle down when you get there, take a bit of his bedding, water bowl, own food, toy etc.