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 decorations, wrapping presents and perfecting our Christmas plans. However, there are some risks that pet owners should be aware of in the run-up to Christmas. Keep reading for our top tips for keeping your dog, cat or house rabbit safe this festive season.
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.
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 prevent jumping up.
The sparkle and movement of tinsel is irresistible to many pets, but it can cause severe blockages if it’s accidentally swallowed, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Surgery is often required to remove the tinsel blockage, so always keep your tinsel well out of paw’s reach.
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 with constant use, 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 are a great way to create that warm, cosy atmosphere, but they can pose a danger if left unattended with your pet. 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.
Although not the case for all, 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 and always place them out of reach of danger of breakage.
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.
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.
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.
Gathering around a roaring fire is often a mainstay of cold winter nights, but pet owners should exercise caution around their pets. 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.
The festive period is one of the busiest times for travel, with many of us visiting family and friends around the country or abroad. If you’re planning to travel without your pet this Christmas and New Year, don’t forget to arrange your pet care well in advance.
Spaces in kennels and catteries fill up quickly, so don’t leave it too late to book. If you’re considering hiring a pet sitter to look after your pet in your absence, read our advice to finding the right pet sitter.