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Here Comes Christmas | Keeping Pets Safe!

As the decorations go up, Pet Insurance Australia has some top tips to keep your pets safe this Christmas.

“It’s getting to that time of year again,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. “As the Christmas trees go up, so does our pets’ chances of getting accidentally injured in all the celebrations.”

Here's a simple checklist of things to watch out for...

Tip #1 - O, Christmas Tree!

Now, we’re not saying don’t have one or that you have to hang it from the ceiling! 

One of the biggest complaints during the seasonal period is foreign body ingestion – in other words, Fido finding the array of Christmas decorations or presents under the tree too irresistible.

“It’s not uncommon to hear of dogs getting into trouble after ingesting Christmas decorations and gifts,” Crighton says. “If you have a pet that is partial to playing with the baubles or tinsel, it’s a good idea to section off your Christmas tree or pop the decorations up higher and out of reach.”

“Cats can also be a little adventurous when it comes to the Christmas tree,” Crighton says. “Most will just play with the hanging ornaments, while others may attempt to climb the entire tree.” If you are concerned that your cat may become injured, discouraging your cat from playing around the tree is 

Other Christmas tree hazards to watch out for include:

  • possible tummy upsets after drinking stagnant Christmas tree water (it can be a breeding ground for bacteria).
  • electrocution is a risk if your pooch starts chewing the Christmas tree lights.
  • injury to the gut if glass ornaments are eaten from the tree.
  • tinsel and other decorations can cause an obstruction of the gut when eaten, resulting in the need for surgery.
  • gift wrappings aren't good for your pet's health, so after unwrapping the presents, quickly clean up any plastic, ribbons and bows that could strangle or be swallowed by your pet.
  • eating pine tree needles - whilst not toxic - can cause irritation to the gut and a very upset tummy

How to make your Christmas tree pet-friendly this year:

Cover or box around the tree stand so that your pets can’t drink the water.

2. Plastic cover encasing the electric cord of the lights.

3. Plastic or non breakable decorations only (no glass) 

4. Decorations secured in place so they can’t fall off or be easily pulled off

5. Place tinsel up high where it can’t be reached (or none!) 

6. Make sure your tree is stable and won’t be easily pushed over. Utilising baby gates around your Christmas tree can also prevent injuries.

Tip #2 - Foods & Treats Toxic for Dogs

Many dogs also present to veterinary clinics with stomach complaints over the festive season.

“It’s imperative that pet owners remind their guests about the foods that are toxic to dogs and cats and keep these out of reach at all times,” Crighton warns. “If you cannot supervise your pet during celebrations, it’s best to pop them into a safe room away from any dangers.”

Common problematic Christmas foods:

  • Chocolate
  • Alcoholic beveragesThis is a no-brainer really but there is NO safe amount of alcohol for your dog to have. Effects will range from depression, difficulty walking, slow breathing, collapse and even possibly loss of life.
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Stone fruit pips (no fruit platters!)
  • Sweets containing Xylitol 
  • Rawhide Treats / Toys - Rawhide is not a by-product of the meat industry. Rawhide is a by-product of the leather industry! It cannot be made without bleach and glue. If that wasn't bad enough, they regularly cause intestinal blockages, poisoning from chemical residue and choking
  • Corn cobs
  • Chewing gum
  • Dried vine fruits (sultanas, raisins, grapes etc. which means no plum pudding or Christmas cake!)
  • Avocados
  • Fatty foods (e.g. stuffing)

“Skewers from the family BBQ can also wreak havoc on your pet during Christmas celebrations,” Crighton says. “Keeping plates out of reach and correctly disposed of leftovers in a rubbish bin with a secure lid is important.”

Signs will depend on the food that has been eaten so if your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have, you should speak to a veterinarian immediately. 

Tip #3 - Overindulgence

Just a little bit of ham can't hurt, right? Well, when given ten times that day a ‘little bit’ of ham becomes a big bit of ham!

Overindulgence can trigger gut pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, even pancreatitis (which can be deadly). Feeding cooked bones should also be avoided as these can cause gut obstructions and constipation requiring intervention. 

Be careful at BBQs - don’t let your dog be fed treats from the BBQ or leftovers from friends' plates. If you can’t ensure your guests will be restrained and not give in to your pleading dog's big lovely eyes, then you are better off to have your dog restrained safely either in the house or elsewhere. 

You need to take control here on behalf of your pooch, because really, would they ever say no?

Tip #4 - Holiday Plants

Popular Christmas plants and flowers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, lilies, hibiscus, Christmas cactus, berries, mistletoe and holly leaves are all poisonous to your pets. Make sure they are out of their reach, as consumption could result in illness or even death.

Tip #5 - Getting Dogs through Noise Phobia

Parties, fireworks and summer storms, it is no wonder this is a hard time of year for dogs who have a propensity to be anxious

Nobody knows your pets better than you do. Always observe your best friends closely and look for the subtle signs that they are unhappy or worried, and take action. 

"Think about areas where your pets can go to escape, feel safe and rest" says Sarah Campbell, President of PPGA (Pet Professional Guild Australia).

Create safe spaces

For dogs, this may be behind baby gates, puppy pens, crates or within a room. For cats, provide areas where they can get up high and hide if needed and make sure they have multiple escape options. Think about an outside enclosure for some outside chill out time.

Keeping them safe around visitors

Your pets may be used to your family, but additional new people, young children, noises and situations can be scary to your pet. In fear, they may feel trapped and this can lead to bites. Delta Dog Safe has great information at Remember all interactions between children and dogs need to be supervised and it needs to be ACTIVE supervision

Some pets will need medication prescribed by their local veterinarian to get through the silly season unscathed.

Tip #6 - Batteries & Toys

Swallowed batteries can cause terrible sickness in dogs, ranging from an upset tummy, to burning their gut or a life-threatening obstruction! Given that batteries are a common addition to Christmas stocking fillers and under the tree, together with the inquisitive nature of our pets, please ensure they are kept well out of reach of your pooch. 

Many toys contain small plastic (squeakers!), rubber or metal parts that, if eaten by a dog, can cause choking and dangerous gastrointestinal blockage, requiring immediate surgery.

Tip #7. Be prepared

"Have your vet's and after hours vet's details in your phone and on the fridge. If away from home, find out who the nearest vet is and also take a pet first aid kit as well. Even consider taking a first aid course for pets to help you apply critical first aid care. Make sure you have plenty of their normal medication and food in stock. Also prepare for any emergency evacuations by having their travel crates, harnesses, bowls etc. ready to go. 

Make sure their microchip details are up to date and they have their collars and tags on. Take an up to date photo and keep on your phone in case they go missing." adds Sarah Campbell, PPGA President. 

With Christmas fast approaching, Pet Insurance Australia urges pet lovers to be mindful of their pets and the impact the silly season can have on their health and wellbeing. These simple steps can prevent a celebration from turning into an emergency.

Have a safe and very merry Christmas!

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