Identifying Christmas hazards

Christmas is a jolly time. A time to make memories with those closest to us. We do not want this special time of the year to be ruined by an emergency trip to the vets. Below we have formulated a list of few common hazards and how to protect your pet from these hazards through the Christmas period.

Food and Drink

We are all likely to be eating lots of food! Keep food out of reach of the pets. Many human foods are toxic to pets. Some of these toxic substances include raisins, grapes, chocolate, alcohol and onions. There are many other food toxins which we can discuss further if you require, or are concerned. In addition, any new foods could have adverse effects on our pet's bodies so it is best to avoid giving any new foods during this time. An excessive volume of food can also be extremely dangerous. Some pets struggle to recognise when they are full due to lacking specific receptors in their brain. This means they will continue to eat, eventually making themselves ill.

Lots of pets may steal and eat food that could be toxic to them. Ensure food is stored in secure packaging out of the reach of any pets, especially cats who may like to climb. Even if food is being used as a wrapped gift, avoid leaving it out as your pets may smell the food and attempt to unwrap the gift themselves to get to it. This can be disastrous, as often the wrapping paper and decorations get eaten too!

Substances such as antifreeze and window cleaners should be kept out of reach from pets. They are toxic and can be fatal if consumed. If any is spilled, please make sure it is cleaned up straight away.

Ensure any decorations are stable and safe. We should avoid chocolate decorations, as these could be fatal to our pets. Pets moving around in the home may cause decorations to get knocked down. Additionally, sharp Christmas tree needles may penetrate your pet’s paw leading to swelling, abscesses and other clinical signs. It is therefore recommended to use a synthetic tree, or make sure any natural trees are well fenced off from incautious paws.

If your cat is likely to climb your Christmas tree, a stable, short tree is better as it is less likely to fall over. Avoid putting up any decorations which could cause a fire if knocked, over or having smashable decorations. Smaller decorations may cause choking if swallowed. Dangling decorations and ribbons often look extremely fun to play with, however, they could cause strangulation. It is best to keep your decorations, inedible, stable, large and made from a robust material.

December is one of the coldest and darkest months of the year. We need to make the great outdoors as safe as possible for our furry friends. Ensure animals living outside do not get too cold. Check on them when it is daylight to check they are still alive and moving. Many species hibernate, so be sure to check if this process is occurring or not. Pets that live outside may need extra blankets, bedding or shelter around their living space. Their water needs to be checked regularly to ensure it is not frozen, as frozen water is impossible to drink.

Because we may feel the weather can be rather extreme in December, we often stop exercising our pets as much. We need to ensure our pets are still offered an adequate, consistent amount of exercise each day. Exercising your pets helps to improve their bone and tendon strength reducing the chances of injury, helps their circulation whilst also boosting their mental wellbeing. Any sudden change in the amount or intensity of exercise could have adverse effects on their health.

Equally, we should be aware of any ice and make sure our pets are restrained appropriately while they are moving on slippery surfaces to prevent any injuries, such as pulled muscles, dislocations or fractures. Ensure your pet has warmed up their muscles prior to participating in intense exercise too. It may be advisable to buy your pet a winter coat if they are sensitive to the colder weather. This can help to make the idea of exercising more appealing. Wearing highly reflective colours and using a torch would be recommended, especially as the days are much gloomier and daylight hours shorter. This helps cars see you and also helps your pet see you should they go astray.

Fires may be lit and fireworks may be released over Christmas. Ensure you have a barrier between these hazards and your pets. Ensure if your pet takes medication for firework stress, you are prepared as the opening hours in the practice will be reduced over the festive period. Do not leave your pets alone with a fire burning in the house.

Remember, our pets deserve to enjoy Christmas just as much as we do. Maybe buy them new toys to play with and keep them content over the Christmas break! If you follow the advice given above, things should be ok, however, we can never be sure. Our emergency vet team will be able to help.