Top 10 Christmas Risks For Your Pets and How to Avoid Them

The town lights are going up as the nights are getting darker, it must mean Christmas is around the corner. While we are busy getting festive and having fun it can be easy to forget that this time of year is not without its dangers for our furry friends. So to avoid any emergency vet visits and keep the family together this Christmas, have a read over our top 10 Christmas risks and learn how you can avoid them.

1.     Food

Most people are already aware that chocolate can be toxic to dogs (and cats!) but did you know that the following foods are also very toxic:

  • Raisins and grapes – including those in mince pies/Christmas cake/Christmas pudding
  • Onions and garlic
  • Avocado
  • Sweets with artificial sweeteners
  • Nuts – particularly macadamia in dogs, or salted nuts in any species
  • Blue cheeses
  • Anything with mould on

It’s not only what your pets eat, but how much they eat that you need to watch out for. Unfamiliar foods can upset delicate stomachs, especially in large amounts. Additionally those extra treats will all add up and can lead to excess weight gain that may be harder to shift in the New Year.

Keep your pets fit and healthy by sticking to their usual diets at this time of year. If you do want to provide extra treats then skip the leftovers and go for pet-specific treats in small amounts.

2.     Bones

Bones from meat may seem like a perfect way to treat your pet, but if swallowed they can cause dangerous blockages. Cooked bones can even splinter and cause tears in the gut, while raw bones can carry the risk of parasites such as worms, or bacteria that could infect other family members.

Why not try a chew toy as an alternative to a bone? However, don’t forget that all these additional treats contain extra calories so you may need to cut down on your pet portion sizes or increase their activity to avoid weight gain.

3.     Drink

From mulled wine to champagne, we like to crack out the beverages at Christmas. From spillages to glasses left at dog height, it can be easy for pets to be tempted by the sweet taste of some of these drinks. However, alcohol and other ingredients in popular alcoholic drinks can be very dangerous for dogs and cats.

To keep your pet safe make sure you keep drinks above nose height and clear up spillages quick. Keep water bowls topped up all day long as, although it may not be hot outside, it can be very warm for pets inside with the heating on.

4.     Decorations

Tinsel, baubles and Christmas trees may all look pretty, but to some pets they look pretty tasty. Eating Christmas decorations can not only cause blockages in your pet’s guts, but some delicate decorations can become sharp if broken, causing further damage.

Electric decorations can also pose a risk. New wires can be a tempting chew toy to puppies or house rabbits, putting them at risk from electrocution. Even cats and older dogs playing with the wires could cause them to become stressed or harm themselves if they become tangled in them.

When decorating your house, try to make sure that decorations such as tinsel or baubles are out of reach and that wires are tucked away. It is also advisable to avoid leaving pets unattended in rooms where decorations could be accessible to them.

5.     Candles

Many homes will have candles as decorations around Christmas. They create lovely cosy lighting in the dark evenings and can fill the room with lovely scents. However, pets will not be able to understand to keep their distance so can be at risk from burning themselves on them, or knocking them over.

To avoid the risk of fire and keep your pets safe from burns, never leave pets unattended with a burning candle. While the candle is burning, always keep it out of reach from curious pets. Once the candle has been blown out make sure the hot wax is kept out of reach from pets.

6.     Plants

Plants make a lovely festive gift and are often used as decorations at this time of year. Many cat owners will already be aware that lilies are highly toxic to cats and should be avoided in households with cats. However, common Christmas plants, such as poinsettia, mistletoe and ivy, can also be harmful to your pets. Consider artificial versions of these plants, keep them out of reach, or avoid them altogether to avoid your pets getting their teeth around them.

7.     Wrapping

On Christmas day the excitement of unwrapping gifts is often shared by pets and owners alike. No matter what’s wrapped up inside though (unless its food), to most pets the best bit about unwrapping presents is the wrapping itself. Although it may be entertaining and cute to watch them getting so excited about what we would consider rubbish, just pay close attention to ensure they are not eating it. Most wrapping paper shouldn’t be toxic but may cause staining of the gums. Eating large quantities though can cause gut blockages.

We recommend that you keep a careful eye on pets as presents are unwrapped and ensure that all wrapping paper and packaging is quickly and securely disposed of before it can be eaten.

8.     Toys

Once the wrapping is out the way then there is the hazard of toys. Many toys have small chewable parts and some require batteries. Batteries can be highly toxic and very harmful if eaten, so should never be left where pets can get hold of them. Toys can also be very damaging if eaten. They can cause blockages as well as tears in the guts.

Once toys have been opened and played with, ensure they are put away safely and never left where pets can get to them. Make sure children are aware that toys can make their pets poorly so should never be given to them.

9.     Children and Other Visitors

Over the festive season, you may have many visitors to the house. From distant relatives to close friends, Christmas tends to bring everyone together. Although you may enjoy their company, remember that not all pets enjoy the social side of the season. Having strangers or new people in their space can be very nerve-wracking for some pets. Children can be especially scary for some animals, particularly as some children may not understand yet how to be gentle or keep a distance.

If you plan on having guests or family round to the house it is important to give your pet somewhere to go and hide if they choose to. This can be anything from a quiet corner in the kitchen, to a peaceful spare room. Make sure that any children know not to disturb the pets if they have gone to their quiet place. Not only will this help keep your pets calm but will also prevent any accidents with teeth and claws.

10. Noise

Firework season has been and gone but often Christmas can be just as noisy. From the loud music of Christmas parties, to the bangs of Christmas crackers and even the occasional fireworks, some pets can become very distressed from these loud noises.

As mentioned previously, having a space of their own to hide can be very comforting for many pets. Also making sure your pet is microchipped and all their info is up to date can ensure that, if they do get spooked and run off, they can quickly find their way back to you.

Overall, the Christmas season is a time of joy and celebration. No-one wants an emergency vet visit over the holidays so stay aware of the additional risks and hopefully, you and your pets will have a safe and happy time. If you have any concerns or questions then don’t hesitate to get in touch anytime and one of our veterinary team will be happy to help. Merry Christmas everyone.