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Can YOU Avert a Christmas Crisis?

Are your pets going to have a good Christmas this year? Or are you expecting a disaster?!

Although for most of us Christmas is a wonderful time, our pets can go from contentment to crisis in a moment. In this blog, we’re going to look at the Big Five risks to dog and cat health over Christmas - and how they can be averted!

Severe Stress

Generally, we like having people around at Christmas - friends neighbours, family, whatever, humans are social creatures. Some dogs (and even a few cats) feel the same way - but for most pets having loads of strange people in and out of the house is seriously stressful! You can’t really blame them for misbehaving, hiding, trying to escape or even messing in the house: it’s their way of trying to manage their fear and stress. Typically, dogs tend to hide, tremble, misbehave or even become aggressive; whereas cats are more likely to start urinating or defecating inappropriately, or try to escape.

The best solution is to try and understand and reduce the causes of stress (for example, by going out rather than inviting strangers in) but at Christmas, it isn’t always practical to live like a hermit to avoid upsetting the dog. In these situations, it’s usually necessary to attempt to manage the stress. The best solution is probably to use a pheromone diffuser - Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats, to reassure them that they are safe and secure. Other options include the use of calming medication (like Zylkene). 

Terrible Trees

Christmas trees are a very ancient tradition in some parts of Europe, but in the UK we’ve only really had a thing for bringing pine trees indoors for the last couple of hundred years. Sadly, our pets haven’t yet got used to the idea! What Christmas trees look like seems to depend on what species you are...

Informative image: trees

We see it as a pretty tree, to a dog it’s a lavatory (which may result in a nasty electric shock if the lights are turned on), and to a cat it’s a climbing frame (which can result in a collapsed tree and a traumatised or injured cat).

The moral of the story – don’t allow pets free and unsupervised access to the tree!

Dangerous Decorations

Of course, it’s not just trees that we decorate our houses with! We have tinsel, baubles, wreaths of holly, poinsettia, ivy and mistletoe, and often other shiny glittery things such as candles and fairy lights. All are beautiful – and all are potentially dangerous.

Poinsettia, ivy and mistletoe can be poisonous if eaten, while holly can cause injury to the mouth if chewed by a curious dog.

Baubles tend to splinter and smash – underfoot, in the mouth or even in the intestines of our greedy friends, resulting in emergency surgery to repair the damage. Likewise, tinsel (although apparently soft and harmless) can act as a cheesewire in the intestines.

Candles and fairy lights are like magnets to cats in particular – but if nibbled or swiped, can result in a nasty burn. Once again – no unsupervised access!

Toxic Treats

Festive foods are great – chocolate, mince pies, Christmas pudding, nuts, sage and onion stuffing… But all of these are toxic to dogs and cats.

Chocolate poisoning is well known (causing vomiting, diarrhoea, excitability, heart problems and seizures), but not so many people know how dangerous raisins and currants (causing kidney failure), onions and leeks (anaemia), Macadamia (multi-system failure in dogs) or peanuts (vomiting and diarrhoea, and potentially salt poisoning too) can be. Even some “healthy alternatives” are dangerous, like the Xylitol in low-calorie baking or sweets, which is lethal to dogs if eaten. Cooked bones are also dangerous – although raw ones can also splinter, when cooked bone becomes very brittle and shatters into sharp spikes which can do serious damage to a pet’s insides.

In general, you’re better off sticking to a high-quality dog food over Christmas! Some manufacturers (like Arden Grange) even do a “Christmas Special” meal – made from pet-safe nutrients.

Infuriating Indigestion

However, many of us do like giving leftovers or at least extra treats over Christmas. As long as you avoid anything actually poisonous, this may be OK – but don’t overdo it! One of the most common Boxing Day emergencies we see in practice is horrendous vomiting and/or diarrhoea from dogs and cats with terrible indigestion!

Treats are OK – but only in moderation…

If you need us over the Christmas period, don’t worry about it – there will always be a vet on call to deal with any festive emergencies.