Tips for a Dog-Friendly Christmas
Christmas is a favorite time of year for many people. With the magic of the holidays, also comes some risks for our furry family members. Here we’ll discuss common problems you may encounter with your dog and some guidelines on how to be prepared in case of an emergency!
Don’t Wait to Prepare!
Due to the hustle and bustle of the season, pet owners sometimes miss the important task of being prepared with their pets. Common events during the holiday season include traveling with pets, boarding pets at facilities or with sitters, or having visitors within the household. In all of these cases, you’ll want to prepare by ensuring your pet is up to date on their vaccinations and other preventative care.
Avoiding the headache of the “last-minute emergency vaccine” appointment can be crucial in maintaining your holiday spirit! Be sure to refill any medications you may need during the week of Christmas or while traveling ahead of time. Plan for health certificates needed for travel ahead of time as well. You’ll also want a copy of your pet’s records on hand in case there’s an emergency when your primary vet is closed. Keep contact information for nearby after-hours clinics handy in case they’re needed in a pinch.
Update Your Dog’s First Aid Kit
Your pet’s first aid kit should be reviewed at least twice a year. A good timeline to do this is before Christmas and the Fourth of July, as these are common times for pets to need emergency care. For a detailed list of first aid supplies we recommend, click HERE.
Make a Risk Assessment of Your Surroundings
So many things around the holiday present unique and tempting dangers to your pet. Dogs are tempted by the smells and sounds of Christmas, and have been known to destroy wrapped gifts, steal food off counters, or chew on electric cords!
Evaluate your home for things within reach of your pet that may pose a threat to them. Dangerous items to keep out of your dog’s reach include strings, garland/tinsel, Christmas tree clippings, ribbon, gifts, candles, and other decorations that could cause intestinal obstruction if eaten. Avoid using open flames on candles that are placed within reach of your dog. Christmas lights, if chewed, are common causes of electrocution around the holiday, and can also get tangled around your pet. Christmas trees can fall on top of your dog if not anchored correctly.
Critically evaluate your environment for any opportunity for your pet to swallow these decorations, chew/electrocute on cords, or entangle themselves. These can be fatal and easily avoided injuries. Also, educate yourself and your guests on appropriate foods for your dog. Know what foods to avoid to prevent illness or possible poisoning.
A good general rule is to simply avoid giving your dog any table food around the holidays. Many human foods can be surprisingly toxic, including things like garlic, onions, grapes/raisins, or chocolate. Also, ensure pets don’t have access to tempting liquor drinks or anything containing alcohol. Holiday food often has high fat and/or salt content, and is rarely suitable to share with our dogs.
At the very least, these foods can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Severe toxicity can even cause kidney failure, life-threatening anemia, seizures, or death. If you want to spoil your dog, do so with treats they are used to and tolerate well, or provide a safe, new toy. If your pet has accidentally ingested something toxic, you should note how much they’ve eaten, and always contact a vet immediately for emergency advice.
A note on nuts: Most nuts aren’t safe treats for dogs. Some nuts such as walnuts or macadamia nuts can cause more severe toxicities. Other nuts may not be toxic but do pose a risk of intestinal blockage or severe stomach upset.
Dogs may want to investigate indoor plants. Several of the plants that you may have at home around Christmas are toxic to pets. If your dog is interested in your plants, remove them from his environment. Make sure that suspected poisonous plants, as well as cut flowers, are placed where your dog can’t reach them. Plants that can cause poisoning include lilies, amaryllis, Christmas rose, and poinsettia.
Tricks to Keep Your Dog Entertained and Relaxed
Exercise: ensure that your dog gets out for a walk twice each day for at least 30 minutes each time. If it’s too cold outside, try to play games with your dog indoors instead. This can reduce the likelihood of them investigating the Christmas decorations and getting into trouble.
Food toys and treats: try serving your dog’s food in an interactive toy, such as a KONG, puzzle ball, or snuffle mat, to provide mental stimulation and keep them occupied for longer.
Personal space: when having guests at home, if your dog gets stressed, ensure that they have a quiet place to go that is easily accessible and away from other people or pets.
Tip! If you know that your dog gets stressed by the changes that the holiday brings, try using an Adaptil pheromone diffuser. Spray and plug-in diffuser options are available. You can also contact your vet if you’re interested in prescription medication to help reduce your pet’s anxiety if needed.
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