While we’re all looking forward to festooning our homes with festive decorations, enjoying meals with family and swimming when the weather gets too hot, these are all potential hazards to our pets. 

A few simple holiday time precautions will keep your pets safe and save you that very expensive, and traumatic, trip to the emergency veterinary clinic.

  1. Keep decorations out of harm’s way. Puppies love to chew and what’s more fun than chewing a string of Christmas lights or tinsel? Aside from the nasty shock your pet may get from chewing through an electric cord, decorations like tinsel can potentially block your pet’s intestines which may necessitate surgery. Shards from broken baubles may injure paws or mouths. 
  2. Avoid the mistletoe. Not because you don’t want to kiss the guy underneath it but because Christmas plants like mistletoe, the beautiful red poinsettia and holly are poisonous to pets. Keep them above chewing height.
  3. Don’t share your meals. We know that it’s really tough to avoid sharing treats from your Christmas table with your pets but a lot of the foods we love can be toxic to pets. Chocolate, xylitol (an artificial sweetener popular in baking), onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, alcohol, and raisins are all toxic to pets, and too much fat (greasy gravy), uncooked meat scraps and bones also pose potential dangers.
  4. Keep an eye on his ears. If your dog loves to swim, be vigilant about drying his ears afterwards. Dogs that swim often are especially susceptible to ear infections. If he paws at his ears or shakes his head repeatedly, get him to your vet immediately. Never self-medicate. You could permanently damage his ear by trying to treat before the problem is diagnosed.
  5. Keep him out of the sun. Heatstroke and skin cancer are very real dangers to pets. Never, ever leave a dog in the car – even for 5 minutes with the window open – in hot weather. The temperature inside a car heats up far more quickly than the temperature outside and heatstroke can kill your dog. Pets with white fur on their ears, noses and bellies should spend limited time in direct sun as they run a high risk of cancer.

How to have fun in the sun

December is one of the happiest months of the year for your dog or cat because you’ll generally be spending more time with them and there’s nothing a pet loves more than you.

  • Get him or her to join in the festive fun by stocking up on pet-friendly treats like ostrich chews and sinews, biscuits, pet biltong (lower in salt) or those tiny salmon treats that cats love (all available at EberVet Vetshops), rather than sharing your dinner.
  • Stuff his/her stocking with pet-friendly toys like catnip mice, balls, frisbees or plaited ropes. Playing with our pets will help us work off our Christmas meal too! 
  • Upgrade your dog’s shabby old lead and collar or harness and take him for long walks at sunrise or sunset before the weather warms.  Hot tar or concrete pavements can burn paw pads. If he likes to swim, limit his time in the water.
  • If your pet is going into kennels, ask them to allow you to bring their own blankets and bed and their own toys so they’ll feel more at home.
  • If pet sitters are caring for your pets, let them play with your pets or walk the dog several times before you  leave. The familiarity should help ease separation anxiety.

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