Holistic Veterinary care


How to keep your pets safe and happy over Xmas

There are many dangers for animals at Christmas time…

I want to take you through the top 5 reasons for pets being admitted to the vet on Christmas day. And hopefully help you make sure that your pet stays happy, safe and well over your Xmas break!

#1 – Gastritis or enteritis

Upset tummies – vomiting, runny bums. This nearly always happens because of feeding leftovers from the humans. Be careful about what you give your dogs. Avoid rich fatty foods, as these are highly likely to trigger pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a lot worse than a simple upset stomach, with severe pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and animals may need intensive care if it’s a severe bout.

Avoid fatty scraps, steak trimmings, pork crackling, gravy, sausages and so on.

Another reason for emergency visits are cooked bones. NEVER feed cooked bones- they are brittle and do not digest well. This can lead to blockages (requiring major emergency surgery) or an impaction in the colon. The chips go through the digestive tract, but they are like a whole lot of sharp little knives, causing a lot of damage on the way. Then you often need an enema under general anaesthetic to get all of it out when they get jammed up in the colon. This is no fun for anyone!

If you must give your dogs a Crimby treat, make it lean meat, or cooked veggies.

#2 – Foreign body ingestion

There are all sorts of little bits and pieces available for your pets to get hold of, play with, and accidentally or intentionally swallow. Cable ties, decorations, small toys, trinkets, the list could gon on for weeks!

Woops, down the hatch it goes. But once it’s gone down the gullet, then how do we get it back out?

Sometimes making your pet vomit will get it backout. For some things, that might cause more harm.  If it’s something small and not sharp, it may go right through and come out the other end. BUT it may also get stuck, causing a blockage, and the need for major emergency surgery. Often surgery will be required to extract the offending item.

#3 – Soft tissue trauma + #4 – Lacerations or bite wounds

I have put these two together – physical injuries. People gather for Xmas, and they often take their pets with them. It’s a high arousal environment – excited kids running about and playing, alcohol often flowing freely, lots of social interaction. The dogs are often left to run wild, and without supervision and high levels of arousal, things can very quickly escalate.

It may only be wild play- but this can lead to crashes and bumps and bruises or even severe sprains and strains.

Once dogs cross the red line, then you can suddenly be in the middle of a dog fight. Dog fights can be hard or almost impossible to break up (I have it on good authority that one sure-fire way to break up a dog fight is to stick a finger up their bum. That would definitely be an ‘if all else fails’ proposition for me!) They are far better avoided.

Dog bites are more common on holiday times. This is because holidays are often way more stressful for dogs than humans realise. Things that can cause stress for dogs include:

  • disruption of regular routines
  • higher levels of stress in humans
  • new people coming into the home or yard
  • Other animals coming onto their territory (even when they know them)
  • different or unfamiliar interactions
  • more noise
  • less exercise

Christmas ticks just about all of these boxes. You need to keep your dogs on a lead, be aware of their stress levels, separate them into different zones, only allow play or free movement with focused supervision. Take care to be aware of the stress levels in the humans, especially kids- don;t ever let dogs from different houses roam free and unattended with kids. All of this advice is more important for visiting dogs.

#5 – Chocolate poisoning

Dogs LOVE chocolate – and it’s very toxic for them – even a small amount can lead to life-threatening toxicity.  Your first step is to make sure that all chocolate (and some other things I’ll mention in a bit) are well and truly out of reach.

This includes low tables! Or even high tables if there are chairs dogs can use as a step up. Remember that many dogs are HIGHLY motivated by chocolate.

If the worst happens, click through to this link to see if the dose is dangerous. If it is, you will need to get to a vet immediately and have them make your dog vomit.


And wait, there’s more…

That’s the top five, but there are still more things you need to be aware of…

Onion toxicity – Onions are poisonous for dogs and cats. You may see gastric upset initially, then anaemia. Small amounts of garlic are ok for dogs, not for cats.

Grapes/raisins/sultanas – Even very small amounts of these can cause severe or fatal kidney failure. As little as one or two have been known to make dogs very sick. This includes mince pies.

Macadamia nut toxicity – Dogs are sensitive to these nuts. They will cause lethargy, fever, tremors, lameness and stiffness. Severe cases may require hospitalisation.

Human recreational drugs – Alcohol will make pets drunk. Cannabis will make them comatose. Other recreational drugs may cause dangerous toxicity. Keept them well away for all pets!

Artificial sweeteners – Many foods and lollies etc have artificial sweeteners. Xylitol is very dangerous for dogs and may kill them.

Lillys –  These flowers can be very, very toxic for cats (and cats seem to love them, too)

Heatstroke – Christmas here in the Southern hemisphere can be fiercely hot. Make sure you manage activity levels, and take steps to keep your dogs cool if it’s heatwave conditions.

Ticks and snakes – Be especially careful, watch for any signs, and check all over every day for ticks (even if on prevention – I have seen pets sick from ticks on just about every kind of tick prevention you can imagine.)

Button Batteries –  If swallowed, these are often fatal (several children die every year from this).

Fireworks/noise –  If you have a dog with sound sensitivity or anxiety, make sure you don’t leave them alone when there are fireworks. (I have a whippet with this issue, which means I have not been able to go out for new years for many years.)

Christmas can be a wonderful time for your pets, but you need to take care and maintain your attention. Don’t switch off. Don’t get tangled up in family dramas. Be proactive and make sure you set the appropriate boundaries. Wishing you and your pets the best Christmas holidays ever!


See you all in the new year…



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