Keeping your pet safe at Christmas

Keep your pet safe from potential risks in the run-up to Christmas with our advice for the festive season.

Know the risks

For many of us, preparing for the festive period means putting up a tree and decorations, we also know that given the ups and downs of 2020, many people have decided to put their decorations up a little earlier. However, there are some risks that pet owners should be aware of as they dust off the boxes and start getting festive. Keep reading for our top tips for keeping your dog, cat or house rabbit safe this festive season.

These tips are especially important for new puppies and kittens; this is the first time that they will be seeing a Christmas tree and all of the sparkly and shiny decorations. As you can imagine, it could be overwhelming, but it could also spark their curiosity or desire to make mischief. Keep a very close eye on them.

Christmas trees

A real Christmas tree is a festive staple in many households, but did you know they can pose a risk to your pet? Not only do they shed sharp needles, which can become lodged in your pet’s throat if swallowed, or injure delicate paws, they also produce natural oils that are mildly toxic to cats, dogs, and rabbits. Although usually minor, these oils can irritate mouths and stomachs if swallowed.

While the fir oils are only mildly toxic, the water that your real tree sits in can be a lot more dangerous if mistaken for your pet’s water bowl. Fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals that may have been used on the tree can transfer into the water. Additionally, the stagnant, room temperature water is often a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause painful stomach upsets if drunk.

How to pet proof your Christmas tree

Artificial trees pose less of a risk, but they can still be knocked over or pulled down by inquisitive pets. Try to position them out of reach, such as on a small, sturdy table, and always keep an eye on your pet and stop them from playing with the branches.  Try not to leave your pet alone in the room with the Christmas tree, at least not for long periods.

Christmas decorations and pets

Tinsel

The sparkle and movement of tinsel is irresistible to many pets, but it can cause severe blockages if they have a nibble and accidentally swallowed, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Surgery may be required to remove a tinsel blockage, so always keep your tinsel well out of paw’s reach.

Fairy lights

Much like tinsel, fairy lights can be very attractive to curious pets but can cause dangerous electric shocks and burns if chewed. Older, non-LED light bulbs can also get very hot, so always secure them firmly out of harm’s way. Chewing on a wire can also cause excess fluid in the lungs which can be fatal, so be sure to check for any teeth marks or punctures.

Candles

Candles are a great way to create that warm, cosy atmosphere, but they be dangerous and you should avoid leaving your pet alone with them. Always place them on a high, inaccessible shelf to prevent accidental burns. It’s also worth knowing that burning candles can cause issues for pets with breathing problems, so you may want to rethink the candlelit mood if you know your pet has an existing medical condition.

Snow globes

Some imported snow globes have been found to contain antifreeze which can be fatal if swallowed by your cat, dog, or rabbit. In fact, as little as one teaspoon for a cat or rabbit, or one tablespoon for a dog, can poison them and result in kidney failure. Avoid buying cheap, imported snow globes wherever you can. If you like snow globes, place them out of reach to avoid danger of breakage. Many cats will enjoy wandering amongst the contents of a cabinet and knocking things off as they go.

Baubles and Christmas tree decorations

Baubles and other tree decorations pose a significant risk to cats who love playing with dangling, moving objects. They can be very fragile, particularly if they’re made of glass, and can leave sharp fragments if accidentally smashed or damaged. Avoid hanging decorations on the lowest branches of your tree and always keep an eye on your pet if they get too close. Additionally, always position chocolate decorations on the upper branches of the tree as they’re highly toxic to pets.

Toxins

Unfortunately, several festive plants are toxic to pets if swallowed or brushed up against.

Call your vet as soon as possible if your pet has swallowed any of the below toxins:

  • Poinsettia – irritates the mouth and causes vomiting.
  • Mistletoe – in small quantities causes stomach upset, and in large quantities causes serious heart or neurological issues.
  • Ivy – causes nausea and stomach upset when swallowed and can irritate the skin if rubbed up against.

Wrapping paper

While some wrapping paper can contain small levels of chlorine bleach and toxic dyes, it’s unlikely to pose a poison risk to pets. However, eating a large amount can cause a blockage in the stomach or intestines, so always store wrapping paper out of reach and clear away any rubbish as soon as possible.

Fires

If you have one, there’s often nothing better than gathering around a roaring fire, but if you have a pet, especially a new puppy or kitten then you need to be really careful. Whether your fire is real, gas or electric, always supervise your pets and never let them get too close. Real log or coal fires can spit unexpectedly, and gas or electric fires can cause painful burns. We strongly recommend investing in a screen to put in front of the fireplace to prevent your pets from getting too close.

Speak to your vet for their advice on protecting your pet this festive period

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