Christmas is a happy and exciting time of year and with the house full of new smells, sights and sounds, who could blame our pets for wanting to get involved? Unfortunately for some pets, after eating something they shouldn't they miss out on dozing in front of the fire with a happy belly, which is just one of the dangers we need to be aware of at this time. We will briefly cover the main hazards to help you avoid potential disasters and make sure your pet can enjoy Christmas with the family.
The Christmas tree
Undoubtedly, the centre of any home at Christmas is the sparkling Christmas tree and it just wouldn't feel complete without one during the festivities. For curious pets, especially younger animals, the pungent pines and glistening objects are irresistible on a number of levels. Just like toddlers, animals tend to explore new things with their mouths so you can bet at some point your pet is going to have a nibble on a twig or two.
For the most part, pets aren't likely to ingest enough plant mass for it to be fatal but vomiting and diarrhoea are a common result. Festive plants range in toxicity between species but pets should be supervised when in the same room to prevent ingestion. This includes keeping holly, mistletoe and their berries out of reach at all times. Some plants such as poinsettias will be irritating to the mouth, so if you notice any excessive drooling, try to find out what they have eaten and monitor their behaviour. That said, their unsavoury taste should deter animals from eating a great amount. If excessive drinking, vomiting and diarrhoea persist, take your pet to their vet.
Pine needles and even materials from artificial trees can cause damage when eaten, as sharp indigestible materials may puncture the mouth and gut lining with serious consequences. Long strings of ribbon and tinsel can cause blockages if ingested or stretch out to leave a long and problematic 'foreign body' in the gut that may require surgery. Similarly, broken baubles and other decorations put your pet at risk and can cause lacerations to paws, so if you spot a broken decoration, carefully sweep up the larger pieces then vacuum the area for smaller shards.
Climbing on or pulling Christmas tree branches may seem funny but we've all seen videos of trees and ornaments crashing down on top of pets, toddlers and belongings. Teach all pets that the Christmas tree is off limits with a firm 'NO' or a sharp 'UH' when they try to play with it. Cats may be more difficult to deter but use your normal method of discipline (whether it be vocal or perhaps a little squirt from a water bottle) and they should learn soon enough.
Real trees are often watered and kept in a pot with additives to prolong their life and reduce the amount of needles dropped while they are up. If the pot doesn't have a guard or lid, find a way to cover up the pot or block off access to it after watering so pets do not drink or eat any harmful substances.
Christmas tree lights and fairy lights around the home are particularly attractive to cats who may attempt to climb trees and furniture to get at them, so never leave a cat unsupervised in decorated rooms. Any pet playing with lights and long cables is at risk of both strangulation and electric shocks or burns.
Fires are a serious hazard for both pets and humans and you should be particularly careful with young puppies and kittens who may be attracted by the flickering flames. Exciting games of ball or chase should not be allowed near the flames to minimise risk of an accident. Fire guards should be in place at all times and pets taught to stay away from the fireplace. Never leave a pet unattended in a room with a fire and always extinguish flames properly before going to bed or leaving the house.
Crackers & celebrations
Don't forget about your pet while you're enjoying Christmas day and celebrating with your family. Many pets will enjoy the buzz and lots of fuss but do cater for those who are more sensitive and may wish to sit somewhere quietly. Have a quiet room set up for your pet and keep their favourite space free of guests if you can.
Christmas crackers, toasts and loud laughter can be unsettling for some animals, so if their quiet place isn't usually enough, consider products such as Adaptil, Feliway or Zylkene to help soothe them over Christmas. Do feel free to contact us for any advice on the products, or see ur Pet Calming Product blog for an overview.
Be careful with the toys and accessories that spill from Christmas crackers and represent choke hazards, similar to shards of decorations and tree needles. Try to contain the fun to the table top!
Foods your pets shouldn't be given this Christmas- read our blog post here!
Safety with pets around Christmas time is common sense for the most part and we are certain that many of the points will be addressed naturally by owners. If you have any stories, or feel there are other points you would like us to include do leave a comment and let us know.
Written by Danielle Cousins