Dr Nick Thompson’s helpful hints for your pet during the upcoming holidays and celebration season

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s essential to remember the safety and happiness of your dog. This time of year can be a very stressful and hazardous for pets so I’ll focus on some of the biggest issues to give you a few pointers.

Gatherings and Parties
Although your pooch may be very sociable, the excited coming and goings of family and friends or you buzzing around to complete Christmas jobs can unsettle both you and your dog

Some animals can become a little overwhelmed. Ensure that they have a safe quiet place or room to escape to and leave a few of their favourite toys or a healthy chew or large bone they can focus on to help release any tension and stress.

Kisses and Cuddles
Children often grab and pull a dog for tight cuddles and kisses without fully understanding that many dogs don’t like this. Make sure you’re looking for any of the basic signs of stress such as the dog trying to escape or them hiding under furniture.

In the case of dogs, if they are turning their head away as they’re being touched, the hair becomes raised on their backs, licking their lips, showing the whites of their eyes or growling, these are signs you need to intervene and take the dog away from the situation. If you’ve got children around, make sure an adult is looking out for the safety of your dog and children, alike. It’s a great opportunity to begin teaching kids on respecting animals in the house.

Festive Food
With the increase in festive food and sweet cakes, it’s very easy for your dog to eat something toxic. Avoid chocolate, grapes (and sultanas, raisins, etc.) and macadamia nuts; they’re all toxic to dogs!

Ensure food is properly stored or out of reach and don’t overindulge them by giving them too many table tid-bits. It’s essential that you don’t give COOKED bones of any kind to your dog. They can cause rapid and fatal problems such as splintering (leading to internal damage), getting stuck in the dog’s digestive system and painful broken teeth.
If you’re hanging edible food on your tree, make sure they’re placed high enough your little darling can’t pilfer them and eat them while your back is turned!

Festive Plants
Certain Christmas plants can be poisonous to dogs such as mistletoe, poinsettias, holly and ivy. Ensure these are kept out of reach and that any decorations that have the potential to harm are placed at height where they can’t be interfered with by your dog.

If you’re using a real Christmas tree, make sure fallen pine needles are cleared up as they can be toxic to your dog, that lights are placed as safely as possible to prevent your dog chewing on the cables or knocking them as they pass by.

Fireworks & Lanterns
There is an ever increasing trend for letting off fireworks and Chinese lanterns at Christmas and the New year. Many dogs become fearful and distressed at the sound of crackling fireworks or burning lanterns. Whether you’re hosting a fireworks party or trying to survive neighbourhood celebrations, you need to ensure the safety of your dog.

They need a safe place to hide that is far away as possible from the noise and the light explosions. A location of safety where they know no harm will come to them. If they do become distressed, don’t chastise them, try to help calm them.

Keep your cat and dog indoors at this time as there have been many incidents of dogs running away from the source of their fears and not necessarily back home as you would expect. Walk your dog early on celebratory days/nights when it’s quiet and stick to the quieter areas you know. Ensure your dog is microchipped so if they do happen to run away from you in distress, they can be safely returned to you.

You can easily help calm the dog by ignoring the fireworks, burning good quality lavender essential oil (or Pet Remedy calming spray or plug-in) to help them relax or try Bach’s Rescue Remedy to help calm their anxiety. Leave a radio on so there is alternative noise source that is less stressful. There are companies who do CD recordings of fireworks that you can start playing weeks and months before the event at a very low level, each night turning up the volume a fraction. By the time you get to the celebratory period, your dog may be more used to the strange bangs and crackles in the sky.

Litter from fireworks and lanterns can be dangerous to your dog so make sure you clear any debris up that has fallen into your outdoor space and watch where you walk for a few days after the celebrations.