Christmas Perils for Dogs

I don’t know about you but I find in the run up to Christmas that it is easy to spend less time than I should considering my dogs, with so much going on. As December approaches I thought I would remind myself and you of some of the dangers of Christmas for dogs so that we can bear them in mind as the season descends upon us.

Guests are an all important part of the celebrations for most of us at Christmas time but sometimes our pets can find them too much to cope with. Dogs can become over excited, confused and frightened and this could even lead to aggressive behaviour. When guests first arrive it’s a good idea to put your dog in a quiet room with something tasty to occupy her. When all is calm you can let her out to greet your visitors. However if they’re staying for a noisy party it might be just as well to let your dog stay in her quiet room for the duration. Be sure that guests know the area is off limits if your dog is uncomfortable with them.

Chocolate is a big problem for dogs and the darker it is the more poisonous to them it becomes. It contains a chemical stimulant called Theobromine. It is actually poisonous to us too if consumed in enough quantity but dogs metabolise it much more slowly than we do so it is lethal at a lower concentration. This concentration varies dog to dog so keep the ‘Black Magic’ high up and don’t hang chocolate baubles on the tree where Fido can reach them.

Sugar within chocolate sweets and in other confections brings its own problems as an excess can cause pancreatitis as a delayed reaction as well as obesity and bad teeth.

Don’t give in to the temptation of overfeeding your dog at Christmas. My own stomach is my own problem but most human food is too rich for dogs to eat in quantity. Not only will your pet become overweight, she will become a begging nuisance at mealtimes and may suffer from pancreatitis or other digestive problems as a result. Save her a juicy raw bone and she will love it!

There are other substances which are dangerous to dogs and I have written a blog entitled ‘Poisonous Food’ which will guide you as to what to avoid. Many plants are poisonous to dogs and should be kept well away from them. The following are some of the most commonly found – Holly, ivy, poinsettia, mistletoe, asparagus fern, cyclamen, daffodil bulbs, day lilies and amaryllis bulbs. Don’t worry too much about these things; just keep a watchful eye out and use your common sense.

Tinsel, wrapping paper, string and other long shapes can send some pets into an excited frenzy and watching them play with them may look hilarious but ingesting these things can be fatal. They can cause constrictions in the intestine leading to possible physical damage and infection. In the same way, electrical cables and loose strands of wire are everywhere at Christmas and your dog may decide that chewing them would be a great idea. Not only can cords cause internal damage but if they are live they can cause serious burns, electric shocks and even death. If your dog has access to rooms with electric cables in them, be sure to switch them off when you are not at home and you could try spraying cords with citronella or bitter apple, both of which are unpleasant smells to most dogs. Better still don’t leave your dog alone where there are loose cables which could cause a hazard.

Christmas trees can be very attractive to many pets. I would recommend keeping heavy decorations nearer the bottom and lighter ones at the top to help to maintain your tree’s balance and if it’s possible, a tether to the wall will stop it toppling if someone investigates it too closely. Any edible ornaments should be firmly attached near the top of the tree. Putting a barrier around it to deter your dog from getting too close can work well. You could even put up a little fence with all the Christmas presents within it around the tree.

Party poppers, fireworks and any other loud noises at Christmas can be terrifying for dogs, so think about noise in advance. If the crackers at the table send Fido trembling and shaking to hide in the kitchen cupboards, put her in a quiet room with a good chew before the festivities begin. Re-read my blog about Bonfire Night for more detailed advice.

If you are going away for Christmas don’t forget that taking your dog’s own bed with you will help her to feel more comfortable and settled when away from home. Plenty of healthy chews and feeding her from a stuff toy in a quiet environment will go a long way to settling her down in a strange house if she is nervous.

Don’t forget that, however busy you are, your dog still needs exercise. You could find that your darling pet will become a complete nuisance when you are trying to decorate the tree or stir the pudding mixture. Think about taking her for a walk before you get stuck into your tasks and she’s much more likely to go to sleep than to play tug with the tinsel. Better still, after the walk give your dog a bone or hollow stuff toy filled with treats and put her somewhere away from all the noise and glitter until it’s all finished and the debris has been tidied away.

The holiday period is definitely not the best time to bring home a new dog as the house will be much busier than usual, you are likely to be occupied with cooking and entertaining and a new dog is easily overwhelmed or at the very least, will be extremely excited by it all which is not a balanced start to her new life. If you have already committed to bringing a dog home, plan carefully in advance. Buy in adequate food for the period, ensure you have a collar and lead, feeding bowls, a brush and a hollow stuff toy for her to chew and eat from. Decide where the dog will sleep and provide her with a good, soft bed, preferably in a dog crate, where she can be safe and settled. It’s a great idea to bring her home with a piece of cloth which smells of her previous home and to put this in her bed to help her to relax. Puppy- proof the rooms you plan to allow her in. My advice would be to restrict her to rooms with no carpet for the time being as you may find it difficult to keep an eye on her at this busy time of year. Make sure she has a calm introduction to your home and that you establish routines from her first day with you so she learns the rules of your house and how she fits in, without excess stress and anxiety.

Have a wonderful holiday!