How to keep your pet safe this Christmas

There’s a lot to love about Christmas. Spending time with family and friends. Festive decorations. Lots of presents. And even more food...

But as the excitement (and chaos) builds, it’s good to remember not all members of your household might feel the same. That’s because the festive season can actually be quite stressful – at times even dangerous – for our beloved pets. Especially if you own a puppy or kitten. There will be lots of ‘firsts’ for them, so make sure their curiosity or cheekiness doesn’t get them into a sticky Christmas spot.

In this article, we take a look at the risks all pet owners should be aware of, what to do if your pet becomes ill over Christmas, and tips on how to make this year fun and safe for your furry friend. Because we all want to think about pure indulgence, not cat or dog insurance, this Christmas.

Cat in Christmas tree

Christmas trees

You might decide to invest in a real tree this year for an extra Christmassy vibe. If you do, be aware of some of the dangers this could create for your pet. 

If sharp needles start shedding, they can easily become lodged in your pet’s throat, injure their paws, or in more severe cases perforate their intestines. Pine needles contain oils that can be harmful for pets, irritating their mouths and stomachs if ingested. 

Another issue is the water the base of the tree sits in. Fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals can transfer into the water and if your pet decides they’re thirsty, they could find themselves with an upset tummy.

Be sure to vacuum around the base of the tree every day – a few times a day if your tree is shedding its needles quickly. Stand the tree in a bowl of water overnight before decorating and keep topping up the water in your tree’s stand to ensure more needles stay on the tree than off. Finally, make sure the water in your tree stand is not accessible to thirsty pets. Always have clean water around the house so your pup or cat can access it when they want to.

And if this all sounds like a lot to remember, there are some great pet-safe (real-looking) artificial trees around these days. 

Decorations

The sparkle of tinsel, the twinkle of fairy lights and the glimmer of glass baubles all make for a lustrous Christmas atmosphere. But they can also prove virtually irresistible to many pets. 

If your cat or dog was to eat tinsel (because why not?!) it can cause a blockage leading to vomiting and diarrhoea (not what you want as you’re just about to tuck into Christmas dinner). Worse still, it could also make its way into their intestines, which could require surgery.

Similarly, fairy lights might seem like a temptingly twinkly snack for your pet. However, if they chew on the cables, they could be in for a nasty (electric) shock and you could be claiming on your pet insurance for emergency treatment. Chewing on wire can also lead to excess fluid in the lungs, which can be fatal.

Cats love to play with dangling, moving objects, and plenty of dogs love to eat everything in sight. Add a collection of beautifully bedazzling glass baubles, and things can get tricky. If knocked off a tree or eaten, baubles can break into multiple shards, potentially getting lodged into delicate paws or creating internal blockages or perforation. 

If you’d rather focus on pigs in blankets than pet insurance, there are a few things you can do to keep decorations safer for pets:

  • Keep tinsel, lights and baubles well out of paw’s reach.
  • Tape any loose wires to the floor or skirting boards.
  • Watch out for signs of teeth marks.

You might also want to use an extension lead that automatically shuts off if any damage is caused. And remember, there are plenty of pet-friendly decorations on the market if yours are due an upgrade.

Presents

As much as we love giving and receiving presents at Christmas, they can pose a number of risks for our pets. And that starts from the moment you wrap them. Ribbons and bows might look like fun playthings, but if your pet gets hold of them, they can cause a number of problems, for example if they are swallowed or get caught around their neck or legs.  

Wrapping paper can also cause problems. Along with crepe paper, it can contain small levels of chlorine bleach and toxic dyes. Toxicity levels are low; however, it can cause a blockage in the stomach or intestines so it’s best not to leave it lying around once presents have been unwrapped. 

Also, the presents themselves might cause issues if swallowed. Small toys and gifts might look like a tasty treat. Batteries can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. And silica gel (the small packets often found in packaging), can cause internal blockages. Keep them out of the way.

French Bulldog with presents

Food and drink

There are a number of food and drink items that can leave pets feeling pretty poorly. Fishing out your pet insurance details and making an emergency trip to the vet is never a good thing. Especially not on Christmas Day. 

Food and drink are staples of the festive period, so just make sure hungry pets don’t get stuck in as well. Here are some of the items that can be toxic to your pets:

  • Chocolate: Contains a stimulant called theobromine that can be poisonous to pets. Avoid hanging chocolate decorations on your tree and don’t put any chocolate-filled presents under the tree.
  • Mince pies and Christmas pudding: Even just a small number of raisins can cause your pet to become seriously ill. Keep out of reach of pets and don’t leave leftovers hanging around – they could prove to be tempting (and very dangerous) snacks.
  • Alcohol: If your pet swallows any alcohol it could lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, and breathing difficulties. Not only does it make them woozy and wobbly, it can also trigger a coma or even death. If drinks get spilled, clean them up as soon as possible and clear away drinks when they are finished with.
  • Cooked bones: Once bones have been cooked, they become very brittle. This means if they are swallowed, they can splinter easily and cause a blockage or serious damage to your pets’ digestive system.
  • Blue cheese: Who doesn’t love a cheese board at Christmas? But while blue cheese is a festive treat for humans, for pets it can be toxic. The cultures used to create blue cheese are not good for your furry pals, so make sure that cheese board stays off limits for Fido and Felix.
  • Macadamia nuts: Nuts have been part of the Christmas tradition for a long time. However, in pets they can cause heightened body temperature, lameness, tremors and lethargy within 12 hours of being consumed. Keep them tucked away in a cupboard and never anywhere your pet can get hold of them.

Plants

As well as the tree posing risks to your pet, there are a few seasonal plants you should look out for as well. A number of these plants are toxic to pets if swallowed – sometimes even if your pet simply brushes up against them. Here are the ones to avoid this festive season:

Poinsettia: If swallowed, poinsettias can cause irritation to the stomach and mouth, sometimes leading to excessive salivation and vomiting.

Mistletoe: The berries of mistletoe can cause your pet to have an upset stomach.

Holly: If your pet decides a holly berry looks like a tasty snack, it could lead to an upset stomach.

Ivy: Can cause nausea and an upset stomach when swallowed. It can also irritate the skin if your pet

rubs up against it.

What to do if you think your pet has been poisoned

If you suspect your pet may have eaten something they weren’t supposed to, it’s important that you take action as soon as possible. Sometimes symptoms do not manifest straight away – it may take a few days before your pet starts to appear unwell. But by that time, it could be too late. 

The most common poisoning symptoms to look out for include:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding
  • Drowsiness/lethargy
  • Loss of consciousness

Any kind of poisoning could be life threatening, so quick action is vital. Always make sure you have pet insurance in place and know how to get hold of your veterinary surgery over the Christmas period. When contacting the vet, give any information about what your pet has eaten over the phone so they are prepared when you arrive at the surgery.

It is also a good idea to make sure anyone visiting over the Christmas break knows what foods are dangerous for pets, emphasizing just how serious a case of pet poisoning can be.

Once you have contacted the vet and heard their advice, there are certain things you can do to ease the situation. For example, if the toxin is on your pet’s skin you need to wash it off with cool water as quickly as possible to reduce irritation. In some cases, your vet might suggest you try to make your pet vomit as it could reduce the amount that reaches their intestines. However, you should only do this if your vet has instructed you to do so.

Find out more about what to do if your pet has been poisoned.

Reindeer King Charles Spaniels

Don't let pets get the holiday blues

With a house full of guests, increased noise levels can be stressful for animals. Most well-socialised pets are able to handle the chaos of Christmas. You might even find your pet enjoys it. However, there are many that don’t. For dogs in particular, the loss of routine, lack of supervision and increased headcount could be an accident waiting to happen.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help your dog (and the whole family) have a very merry Christmas.

1. Stick with their regular routine: Make sure your pet is able to get enough exercise and stimulation over the festive period. If they are used to having your attention 24/7, they might find it hard if that is suddenly taken away. You will find your pet will cope with unexpected changes much better if they have predictability the rest of the time.

2. Create a safe space: Make sure your pet has a designated safe space where they can go when things get too much.

For cats, give them a choice of hiding places – some up high. This will enable them to watch proceedings from a safe distance if they wish. Keep their litter tray, food and water in a quiet area where they won’t be disturbed.

Lots of dogs are scared of loud noises (like fireworks), and the same may be true of party poppers and crackers. Create an area where they can seek refuge. Fill it with things like a familiar blanket, bed, toys and a long-lasting chew.

3. Watch out for warning signs: Your pet will give you clear signs when they are feeling anxious or stressed. These can range from yawning and licking their lips to more obvious signals such as looking tense or worried or trying to remove themselves from the action.

The best gift your pet could wish for

Your pet is a valued member of your family, so you want to make sure they enjoy Christmas as much as you do. Spoil them with gifts - from toys to personalised blankets and pet gadgets, there’s a lot to choose from.

But this Christmas, why not give them the best gift of all? Award-winning pets insurance that covers them all year round.

At Purely Pets we make insuring your pet simple and transparent. As part of the package, we offer a range of lifetime policies, a 24-hour Vet Helpline and an online policy management portal.

Take extra special care of your pet this Christmas. Get in touch today to find out more and get a free quote for pet insurance.