5 tips for keeping your pet safe during the holidays

Want to avoid an impromptu visit to the emergency room during Christmas dinner? Here’s what you need to know.

While the Christmas holiday period can be a fun and relaxing time for humans, our pets don’t always enjoy the end-of-year break quite as much – in fact, the holiday season can be quite a dangerous time for our furry friends unless we’re extra vigilant and sensitive to their needs.

Potential health hazards are everywhere, from the Christmas tree and decorations to the food and festivities, and the following are some of the main dangers to look out for at this time of year.

Here are our 5 top tips for keeping your pet safe these holidays.

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1. Keep your Christmas tree on lockdown

Everyone loves a Christmas tree in the living room and that includes your dog or cat. If it is a live tree, your pets will be attracted to the many scents it carries from the outside world and they will want to explore it further, which can spell disaster.

To prevent them from pulling your Christmas tree over, make sure it is firmly anchored at the base and place a perimeter fence around it to deter them from climbing it or pushing it over.

Try and keep ornaments on higher branches. Pets can be attracted to them and get into trouble. Tinsel can also be dangerous to your pets as it can potentially block their intestines if eaten. Ensure you hang it out of reach, along with glass baubles (which can shatter into shards if chewed) and tree lights (which can burn your pet or shock them if they bite through the wires).

Sweep up any pine needles you find around the tree as, while not poisonous, they can be dangerous to animals if ingested.

2. Be wary of Christmas plants

Poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are all popular plants at Christmas time, but these are all poisonous to dogs and cats and should be kept out of reach of your pets.

While not deadly to pets as some people believe, poinsettia leaves contain a sap that can irritate their mouth and oesophagus and if ingested can cause nausea and vomiting. However, holly and mistletoe are more toxic and if eaten, can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive drooling and abdominal pain, and if ingested in large enough amounts, can lead to breathing problems, seizures and even death.

3. Choose appropriate gifts

If your pet is lucky enough to receive gifts during the holiday season, you need to make sure they are safe for them to play with, just as you would if giving a present to a child. They should not contain any small objects that if swallowed could become choking hazards or contain pieces that when chewed could splinter or break into shards.

Fortunately, there are plenty of pet-safe chewable toys on the market these days, so your best friend can enjoy a visit from Santa without needing to visit the vet as well.

4. Create a safe haven for your pet during parties

The Christmas and New Year period is a time of parties and entertaining visitors your pets would not normally be around. It’s important to make sure they don’t get overly stimulated and that they have a safe haven where they can enjoy some downtime if the excitement gets too much for them.

This location should be away from the festivities and should contain fresh water, their favourite toys and a comfortable place to sleep. A spare room, laundry or quiet area of the veranda could be prepared for them, just until the revellers have departed.

New Year’s Eve can be a particularly anxious time for dogs, who can be frightened by fireworks and loud noises. The best thing you can do is to keep them inside where there is less noise and if your pet is particularly nervous around fireworks, perhaps get your vet to prescribe an anti-anxiety medicine to calm them down.

Try and avoid leaving them in the yard on New Year’s Eve, as a frightened dog will find a way to escape; if you can’t avoid it, at least make sure all gates and doors are firmly secured and that their tags and microchips are up to date if they do manage to get out.

5. Don’t set them a place at the table

Rich and exotic foods are a big part of festive celebrations and while they may not be particularly good for us, they can be really bad news for your pets. Sweet, fatty and spicy foods are not intended for animals and can cause an upset stomach or even a life-threatening illness.

To ensure they don’t overindulge along with your guests, keep snacks and hors d’oeuvres out of reach and ask your guests not to feed them no matter how cutely they behave. And make sure they do not have access to sweets and chocolates, as these can be poisonous to dogs. A good idea is to feed your pets early before your guests arrive so they will not be hungry and will be less likely to beg when the food is being passed around.

All this doesn’t mean you can’t give your pets a treat at Christmas time. Small amounts of plain cooked meats are fine, it’s just the spices, sauces and marinades you need to avoid. Cooked bones from chicken or turkey can also splinter or become lodged in their throat or gut, so if you want to give them a tasty bone to chew on, make it a fresh bone from the butchers instead.

There are also plenty of pet-friendly Christmas treats in the supermarket or pet store to keep your furry friends happy, so by all means include them in your festive celebrations – just feed them what you know is good for them rather than what they’d like to chow down on.

But if your pet does have an accident, pet insurance has still got your back

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Alexandra Koster

Alexandra is the Assistant Publisher at finder.com.au for insurance. Her hobbies include reading PDS's, deciphering complicated insurance lingo, and helping people find the right cover for their needs.

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