Keeping your pets safe and happy at Christmas time
Well, this seems to have come around very quickly this year! Yes it’s our annual post about taking care of your pets at Christmas, with a guide to what your pets should and shouldn’t eat along with some tips on keeping them safe and happy during the festive season.
Although Christmas can be fun and exciting for humans and animals (Murdock the lurcher is particularly excited about his doggy advent calendar this year and comes belting down the stairs each morning to get a treat) Christmas time can also be a little bit hazardous for our pets. Many of the foods that we like to enjoy at Christmas can be extremely harmful to our pet dogs and cats, and candles, Christmas trees, lights and decorations can be perilous too! But with a little bit of planning you can still have lots of fun together. Here are some of the steps you can take to make sure that both you and your pets get to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without any mishaps or budget-busting trips to the vet!
Christmas dog photo by Cottonbro studio on Pexels
Keeping your dog safe and happy at Christmas
If you really want to treat your dog this Christmas, buy them food and gifts that have been made especially for dogs, rather than sharing your own snacks from your plate. Not all human food is good for dogs and many of the things we like to eat at Christmas can be particularly harmful. In fact, Chocolate, grapes, mince pies, Christmas pudding and some types of nut are extremely toxic to dogs. Every year you can find a bigger selection of Christmas treats for dogs in the shops – including pre-stuffed Christmas stockings, advent calendars and even doggy Christmas Eve boxes! If you’d like to give them something other than edible treats, check out our recent gift guide from the Gravitis pet range, with pressies to suit every breed and budget!
Christmas Foods for dogs to avoid
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine. This is similar to caffeine and even when eaten in small amounts, it may cause your dog to experience tremors and heart problems. Do not give chocolate to your dog and avoid leaving chocolate where your dog may find it and be tempted to help themselves. Don’t leave chocolates out in dishes or hang them on your Christmas tree where your dog can reach them, particularly if they are likely to eat the foil wrappers as well. Put all of your wrapped edible gifts beyond your pup’s reach and make sure that all of the members of your family, visiting relatives and friends are aware of the dangers and risks to your dog’s health.
All types of grape, i.e. fresh grapes or grapes that have been dried as raisins in mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are severely toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. Most dogs instinctively know this and will leave grapes and raisins alone, but certain breeds - and puppies – may tend to eat anything they find, particularly if they are wrapped in buttery pastry or smothered in cream. Make sure that you keep any Christmas cake or other grape or raisin-filled items out of harm’s way, especially if your dog is likely to jump up onto a table top or kitchen counter in order to taste a festive treat. It is a good idea to double check that your bins and rubbish bags are secure too, so they don’t fish anything out and eat it.
Some of the spices used in Christmas baking can make your dog sick. Cinnamon - although not toxic - may cause vomiting, and large quantities of nutmeg can cause hallucinations and increase your dog’s heart rate, although they would have to eat a lot to experience these effects. Make sure that you keep your cooking ingredients packed away just in case.
Onions and other similar veg (leeks, shallots etc) are toxic whether they are cooked or raw and can cause anaemia. Be especially careful if you have onion gravy as most dogs will be unable to resist this if they find it.
Macadamia nuts are known to cause increased body temperature, tremors, stiffness and lethargy.
If you are going to feed leftovers to your dog, make sure that they don’t contain any of the foods mentioned above, and be aware of hidden dangers such as onions in gravy and raisins or spices in cakes or puddings. Cooked bones may splinter when eaten and cause problems too. If you insist on sharing your dinner, then stick to whole foods such as turkey, potatoes, sprouts, carrot, parsnips and peas. Any kind of sweet treat will contain sugar which is bad for your dog’s teeth so try not to feed these even if they don’t contain any of the other toxic ingredients mentioned above. If you’re enjoying some sugar free festive snacks, the sweetener Xylitol is extremely hazardous to dogs.
Dog bauble photo by Visually Us on Pexels
Dogs vs. Christmas Decorations
For some dogs, the baubles on the Christmas tree may be too difficult to resist if they are the same size and shape as some of their toys. Make sure you keep glass decorations out of reach, especially if your pup is going to be left unattended at home for any period of time. If possible distract them with an early gift of a ball or a chew so that they have something else to focus on.
If you enjoy lighting candles at Christmas ensure you don’t leave them unattended where your dog might sniff them, knock them over, or brush against them with an excited wagging tail. .
Some Christmas plants are harmful to animals. Red-leaved poinsettia plants can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach if eaten. Holly and mistletoe berries can cause a stomach upset. Pine needles can cause intestinal damage. So make sure your dog is not eating somewhere that pine needles may stick to or contaminate their food.
Keeping your cat safe and happy at Christmas
Light cat photo by Eftodil Aurelia on Pexels
Christmas Foods for cats to avoid
Although cats are less likely to help themselves to your Christmas food than dogs are, they still do and the list of things that are toxic to them is pretty similar to the things we have listed for dogs to avoid. It’s a good idea to make sure you don’t let them eat anything that isn’t cat food or a cat treat.
Cats vs. Christmas Decorations
The main problem with cats at Christmas is their tendency to scale Christmas trees and play with the decorations, particularly if you have a young cat or a kitten.
Cats love to climb, they also think that everything is for them. So if you put up a huge tree in the corner of a room and dangle baubles and tinsel from it, they will naturally assume it is a new kitty activity centre and may become confused when you repeatedly remove them from it. It is more difficult to get a cat to understand that they must not do something and they don’t tend to respond to gestures and voice commands in the same way that a dog might.
If possible, keep your cat shut away from the tree when you are not around. If this is not feasible, try to make your tree as cat-proof as possible. Use a sturdy stand that is difficult to tip over. Plan for the worst-case scenario and check that there is nothing near the tree that could get damaged if it falls over and nothing on the tree (e.g. glass baubles) that could break. If you have a real Christmas tree that needs watering, make sure that it won’t come into contact with any electrical sockets if your cat does manage to tip it over and try to hang the most tempting baubles higher in the tree so that your cat doesn’t remove the low hanging treats. Don’t be tempted to let them have one bauble to play with as they may assume that this means it is open season on all of the Christmas baubles and annihilate the tree when you are out of the room. Keep their cat toys separate and create a little play area away from the tree, encourage them to play there and reward good behaviour with treats or cuddles.
Cats are more likely to have a chew on Christmas foliage than dogs are so keep any poinsettia, ivy, holly, mistletoe etc out of reach. If you have a living Christmas tree planted in soil, try to keep the base covered to discourage digging and/or pooping and make sure that pine needles do not get into your cats food.
If you have a ‘full house’ over the festive period with lots of friends and relatives dropping in or coming to stay, a shy cat may become overwhelmed. Try making them a bed somewhere out of the way so that have a safe place to sit apart from all the noise.
Sniffing dog photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels
Christmas should be a happy time for all the family, which includes your pets. Take some time to make a fuss of your cat or dog, watch a Christmas movie together and appreciate them as much as you can.
We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our customers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you for your continued support this year and in 2023. If you’ve got some tips for caring for your pets at Christmas, let us know in the comments section below!
Main Christmas cat photo by Pixabay on Pexels