Written by: Dr Jacqueline Boyd, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, PGCHE, CHES, FHEA, MRSB
Nutritional Consultant, Skinner’s Pet Foods
The radio is awash with festive tunes, sparkling lights are twinkling, decorations are appearing, and the cupboards are starting to groan with tasty treats “for the big day”. Christmas is coming and it’s one of the most fun times of the year for us and our dogs, with time to spend outdoors, play with new toys, eat tasty treats and hopefully have lots of relaxing and bonding time too.
However, Christmas and the festive season can come with some potential hazards for our dogs too. Here are Skinner’s top ten tips for ensuring a safe, fun and memorable Christmas, for all the right reasons!
1. Eat and be merry!
The festive season is often when we all indulge a little and our dogs are no exception. It’s nice to spoil them a little with some tasty treats, but we do have to be really careful that we don’t upset their digestive systems (no-one wants a poorly pooch over the holidays!) Sudden dietary changes from “normal” can result in very smelly wind and digestive discomfort and in serious cases, vomiting and diarrhoea, so it’s sensible to keep added treats to a minimum, especially if you know your dog has a slightly sensitive digestive system (and any house guests might be less than pleased to smell, rather than see your dog!)
2. Drink and be merry!
The holiday season is often when we overindulge a little in both food and drink. It is important however to keep our dogs away from alcoholic drinks (and even food containing or cooked in alcohol!) and simply continue to provide a source of fresh, clean drinking water at all times.
3. Know the nasties!
Those tasty treats that us humans love are sometimes quite toxic for our canine friends and can make them very ill, very quickly. Avoid onions, lots of garlic, large amounts of fat (which can cause acute pancreatitis in some dogs), chocolate, raisins, sultanas, grapes, dates, macadamia nuts, anything containing artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, painkillers such as ibuprofen and alcohol. Keep anything that you aren’t sure about, safely out of your dog’s reach and watch out for those “table raiders” and “counter surfers”. Make sure any house guests are also aware not to treat your dog with anything unusual and if your dog does consume anything of concern, contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.
4. Treat well!
Being safe doesn’t mean you can’t treat your dog however! Adding small amounts of cooked veggies (carrots, even sprouts if you dare!), mashed potato and even some plain turkey to their normal meal can make for a nice treat but do avoid excess fat (roast potatoes in goose fat or fat trimmed from meat for example) or salt (some gravy!) to avoid serious digestive upset. You could even consider a gradual swap of your dog onto Field and Trial Turkey and Rice during December, to keep the holiday theme going with minimal risk of serious digestive upset!
5. Delightful decorations
Christmas decorations are often viewed as novel and exciting new “toys” by many dogs. In decorating the house (or even the garden!) think carefully about the placement of electric cables and use circuit breakers where possible to reduce any risks should the cable be chewed or otherwise “interfered with” by Fido. If you have crackers, remember that the noise they make when pulled can startle and scare some dogs, so manage their use carefully. Many decorations are also highly attractive as potential “toys” or chew items by many dogs and are often ingested by accident. Unfortunately, much of the materials that decorations are made with are not ideal or safe for our dogs and can break, shatter or if consumed, cause intestinal blockages. Try to train your dog to leave decorations and trees alone, and if not, prevent unsupervised access. Even “real trees” can be potentially dangerous for your dog and pine needles can get stuck in paws and hair, so again, take care to limit access. In doing so, you can all enjoy the fruits of your decorating labour!
6. Perfect presents
Those lovely present under the tree are often a huge temptation for many dogs. Remember our dogs have senses of smell far better than our own and those chocolates, sweeties and other treats will still smell delectable, even when wrapped up! If your dog cannot be trusted to leave presents well alone (and I know my own spaniels absolutely cannot!!), keep them safely out of the way (presents or dogs!) – on a table or hidden until the big day itself.
7. Happy house guests
Visiting families, friends and house parties can all make your dog’s usual routine a little more varied. Some dogs will revel in the attention and extra people, but others might be concerned and a little worried about the change and different people. It’s a good idea to allow your dog somewhere quiet and safe to keep away from the hustle and bustle – this might even be allowing them into a quiet spare room or access to a covered crate. It’s also a good idea to remind children not to bother the dog if they are sleeping or resting – this keeps both dog and children safe!
8. Get some fresh air!
The holiday season is a time to rest and recuperate but its also important to still get out and about and exercise! This is as important for our dogs as it is for us! Keep Fido’s brain and body occupied through walking, running, games and maybe even some training. It means you all get some exercise, fresh air and are less inclined to suffer “cabin fever” over the holiday period. The other benefit will be some of the excess calories can be burned off too!
9. Curb the costumes
Dressing up can be fun for us, but scary for some of our dogs – if your dog gets worried by fancy dress or the appearance of “Santa Claus”, maybe consider giving them a safe, quiet place to stay until the fancy dress festivities have ended. Equally, dressing up our dogs can be fun and cute, but if your dog really isn’t happy wearing his new Christmas jumper or reindeer antlers, forcing them for photos isn’t really fair either. Always judge your dog’s reaction and respond accordingly.
10. Have a Cracking Christmas!
Being mindful of keeping your dog safe will hopefully mean that you, your family and your dog can have a truly wonderful, exciting and relaxing festive season. Have fun, share both active and relaxed time and Skinner’s wishes all our customers, both canine and human, a Cracking Christmas!