How To Care For Your Pet At Christmas

Why Be Concerned About Your Animals At Christmas?

The festive season can bring lots of short-term changes, such as different routines for your animals. Why is this important? All animals usually thrive on routine. This doesn't mean doing things at the same minute every day for instance, but certainly if your dog is used to going for walks first thing in the morning then that is something he or she will expect all year round. Routine is important to any animal large or small such as our hamsters or cats, to larger animals like dogs or horses. Changing routines can cause anxiety, stress, physical and mental ill-health to our animals.

There are of course other challenges for our animals at Christmas and the festive season, whether that's different sights (more people about, presents, Christmas trees, decorations, etc) or sounds (such as music, fireworks, parties/gatherings). These can also potentially cause stress, anxiety and ill-health.

Top Tips To Help Your Pet or Other Animals To Be Happier & Healthier at Christmas

Tip #1 - Routine

The majority of animals thrive on some routine.  So are you able to make sure your pets normal routines are maintained over the festive season?  E.g.

  • Walk your dog at a similar time to what you normally do;
  • Feed your pets at a similar time to normal;
  • Not over-exciting them - they may know something is different from observing you and your family (if you're doing different things), but they don't really know it's Christmas and probably aren't waiting for a present!
  • Give your horses the same amount of turnout in the field as normal;
  • Exercise your horse as you would normally do - a day off is not a bad thing, but if you normally ride your horse every day, to suddenly go for a few days without exercising will be a significant change of routine to your horse. This can not only cause anxiety but also physical ill-health.

Tip #2 - Food

Your Pet Should Always Avoid These Foods:

  • Chocolate - never leave chocolate on or under the tree if there are pets in the home
  • Grapes and dried fruits (currants, sultanas, raisins) including Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies
  • Onions (and garlic, leeks, shallots and chives) including sage and onion stuffing
  • Alcohol
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Leftovers.
  • This is not an exhaustive list, remember your animal is happy eating what he or she normally does - they don't have to have different food just because it's Christmas!

If your pet does eat any of the above foods/drink go to your Veterinary Surgeon urgently - some foods take time to make your pet ill, so don't think all is alright and delay or read up on the internet what other people think before getting professional advice - every second counts! Your vet would rather have you speak to them on the telephone at least to discuss, than wait to have a very sick animal to attend to as an emergency.

If you're unsure whether your animal should eat a particular type of food, then a good rule of thumb is to consider whether in the wild your animal would eat it? For instance your animal wouldn't eat chocolate biscuits in the wild, because chocolate biscuits don't grow in the ground or on plants, etc!

Your animal could have many symptoms of food/drink poisoning including diarrhoea, vomiting, convulsions, unconsciousness, blood in stools, constipation amongst other things. Basically if your animal seems in anyway different to normal and you know or suspect they've eaten/drunk something different or what they should not have, then get to the Vet!

Tip #3 - Plants

Yes some plants and flowers can be toxic to animals. In the season of gift giving, it's common for plants/flowers to be given, the following are poisonous to dogs and cats (and some other animals):

  • Poinsettia
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Christmas trees
  • Ivy
  • Lillies

Keep plants and flowers out of reach of your animal. If they're prone to climbing about, then consider whether these should even be in the house - there are plenty of other plant choices. It's not your animals fault if they eat something they shouldn't if it's been put into their home environment.

Some of these tips to look out for at Christmas may seem a lot to think about and be unnecessary, but animal ownership does come with a big responsibility as I know many of you readers know!

Tip #4 - Decorations

Keep your animal away from decorations. This is because:

  • Many decorations will be dangerous for your animal if they eat them - either because they're poisonous or they would cause a blockage if ingested.
  • Want to "decorate" your pet with Christmas decorations? Unless it's a 100% pet-safe outfit which is designed by a reputable pet clothing manufacturer (or you've made it and you've excellent sewing skills) then NO don't do it! Your animal may look "cute" with some additional 'decorations' but it's potentially very dangerous.
  • Never, ever put fairy lights on your pet - the lamps get hot, your animal could get tangled up in them, they could get scared by them, they could eat them, the list of dangers is many - don't think your animal is normally quiet and will sit there with them on, it's a risk not worth taking….so NO, NO!

Therapies To Help Your Animal

Bach Flower Remedies are an excellent natural and safe way to help your animal cope with many situations. Take a look at my Bach Flower Remedies advice page here. You may have heard of Rescue Remedy? This is a popular Bach Flower Remedy to help with 'shocks' and 'special occasions', read more about this in this blog post

Reiki is a gentle holistic energy therapy that can help promote relaxation and calmness. Read more about it in my advice page here

Massage can be used to not only keep muscles warm and toned, especially helpful if the weather's cold but also promote relaxation.

Tellington Ttouch is a great technique that helps all types of animals to be calm and feel more secure, particularly important if there's a lot of 'excitement'. Read more at the official Ttouch website here.

There are many other complementary therapies that can help your horse, dog, cat or other animal to be happier and healthier at Christmas. Discover more information on dozens of therapies in the Taranet Knowledge Hub.