Cat with christmas decorations

5 ways to keep your pets happy and safe this festive season

21 December 2022
Help your furry friends thrive during the Christmas period
The festive season can be a busy and exciting time for humans and pets alike, but it’s important to be aware of potential hazards that can harm our small friends during this time. Here’s a list of what to watch out for and how to prepare for a safe summer.

1. Check for ticks

Paralysis tick

It’s important to regularly check your pet for ticks, especially after spending time outside.

Paralysis ticks are responsible for the deaths of many dogs and cats on the east coast of Australia every year. Paralysis tick season runs from spring to autumn, with most cases occurring in spring and summer.

Common signs to watch out for include changes in the sound of your pet’s bark or meow, vomiting, coughing, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, and difficulty walking that usually presents at more advanced stages.

“We are very fortunate now that we have preventatives that work extremely well for ticks, most of these are applied once a month between the shoulder blades or given orally. It’s best to speak to your vet about options and what will work best for your pet,” explains Professor Jan Slapeta from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science.

2. Prevent heat stress

Pug swimming in paddling pool

With the increased frequency of extreme heat events, pets are at greater risk of heat stress, which can be fatal. Ensuring that your pet has access to a cool, comfortable area to rest and fresh, cold water is vital.

Dr Anne Quain recommends exercising dogs in the early morning or late evening and avoiding hot roads/footpaths as these can cause burns to the paw pads.

“Flatter-faced ‘brachycephalic’ breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, are at particular risk and should be kept indoors, in a cool environment,” warns Dr Quain.

3. Keep festive foods and gifts out of the way

Christmas dinner spread

Festive events are usually associated with indulgent foods, many of which can be dangerous for pets. According to Dr Quain, common culprits include:

  • chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are toxic and potentially fatal to dogs and cats
  • mincemeat pies or fruit cakes/loafs include grapes, raisins and sultanas that can cause irreversible kidney failure in dogs
  • fatty foods like cheese, ham, pork crackling, bacon, turkey skin, lamb, snags and the gristle off your steak can lead to diarrhoea and can trigger life-threatening pancreatitis in pets
  • onions and garlic can be toxic to dogs and cats, and lead to life-threatening anaemia
  • eating a lily plant, including flowers and leaves, can cause irreversible kidney damage in cats; cats seen licking or eating lilies should be taken to a veterinarian as an emergency.
Festive foreign bodies

Additionally, ingesting festive foreign objects can lead to digestive issues in your pets.

Items like tinsel, string lights, and ribbon might be appealing and entertaining for pets, making it crucial to ensure they are kept out of reach whenever possible.

4. Look out for hazards

Bulldog looking at Christmas decoration

To your furry friend, a decorated home might look likes an amusement park ready to be explored.

Be aware of breakable Christmas baubles that might injure pets, or batteries, small toys, ribbons, and tinsel that could be swallowed and lead to gastrointestinal blockages.  

Keep these items out of reach of pets and make sure they’re properly secured.

5. Manage pet anxiety

Cat napping

Seeing unfamiliar humans in the house or yard, changes in routine, loud conversation or music, and fireworks can be very stressful for some pets.

It’s important to make sure they have a quiet space to escape to, and they should never be forced to socialise if they don’t want to.

If you’re away from home during the festive season, make sure there is someone who can check on your pet or consider boarding them. Animals can get lonely and agitated if they are used to company and there is suddenly no-one at home for days.

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