Pet-Safe Christmas: Tips to Ensure a Stress-Free and Hazard-Free Holiday Season for Your Pets

How to have a pet-safe Christmas

There’s so much to do at Christmas time – wrapping presents, cooking a huge meal, visiting family and friends… so the last thing you want is to add in an unexpected vet visit for your pet!

As part of its ‘Join the Christmas Rescue’ campaign, the RSPCA is urging pet-owners to be prepared for any emergencies which arise over Christmas – and to ensure that the festive time is as non-stressful as possible for our fluffy friends.

RSPCA pet welfare expert Dominika Jagoda said: “No one wants an expensive vet visit this festive season! But by being prepared, owners can help ensure their pets join in the festive fun in a safe, responsible way.”

The RSPCA has published the following top tips for pet-owners this festive season…

Stick to their normal routine

Christmas is a chaotic time and this could cause our pets to feel stressed.

“You can help your pet cope with the chaos by keeping to their normal routine as much as possible,” said Dominika. “It will also help your pet if you provide them with somewhere cosy and quiet where they can retreat to if the excitement gets too much.

“You might have lots of guests coming and going, so make sure doors aren’t left open because there would be a chance that your pet could get out when you aren’t watching.”

Be prepared

If the worst does happen and you need to take your pet to a vet, be aware that many vet practices will have Christmas operating hours. There are out-of-hours vets who will be able to help, so make sure you know where your local one is and that you have their contact details – just in case.

“There is always so much going on at Christmas that it can be hard to remember everything! But planning ahead can avoid any potential panic. Dominika said: “Make sure you have the number of an emergency vet to hand, just in case. If your pet is on medication, stock up before the holidays so you don’t get caught short.”

Keep human food away from your pets

Most pet owners know that chocolate, grapes and onions can never be given to dogs and if your dog does accidently eat these foods you should ring your vet straight away for advice.

However, less well-known is that raisins, currants and sultanas – commonly added to festive bakes – are also extremely dangerous to dogs. Other foods to keep away from your pet include leeks, garlic, macadamia nuts, cooked bones (e.g. chicken bones), shallots, chives, corn on the cob, sweets – especially those containing xylitol – and any leftover food which has gone mouldy.

Never feed dogs or cats cooked bones as these can splinter and cause internal injuries. Leftover pigs in blankets, gravy and stuffing shouldn’t be fed to pets due to their high salt content but other parts of the Christmas dinner can be fed as treats if you have leftovers; such as small amounts of cooked turkey, carrots and parsnip. Never give alcohol to your pet as it can make them sick.

Perilous presents

“It’s not just food which is a hazard to our pets – some household items can be dangerous too,” said Dominika. “Popular festive plants including poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe can be mildly toxic, so avoid these if you have pets.

Lilies are extremely toxic to cats – never have these in the home if you have cats. Tinsel and wrapping paper might be tempting for your pet to play with – but make sure they don’t eat it!

“Silica gel, which is often put in packaging, can cause your pet stomach upset if ingested, as can pot pourri.”

Avoid overindulging your pet

“It’s normal for us to overindulge over the Christmas period – but don’t pass on this habit to your pets, no matter how tempting it may be to shower them with tasty treats!” said Dominika.

“Extra weight gain can lead to health problems, so to keep your pet healthy and happy, keep treats to a minimum.”

Giving pets as presents

“The RSPCA does not advise the giving of pets as presents unless it is known that the person receiving the pet is willing to take on the responsibility of having a pet, can afford to do so and can give them everything they need to be happy and healthy throughout their life,” said Dominika.

“We’d urge anyone thinking of purchasing a pet – whatever the time of year – to consider the long-term commitment required to properly care for an animal. People need to take into account whether they have the time and money to care for that pet for the rest of its life.”

The RSPCA is raising awareness of the shocking reality facing abandoned and neglected pets this festive season – as incidents reach a troubling three-year high. The charity is urging supporters to Join the Christmas Rescue and help the RSPCA be there for animals this winter.

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