Christmas is nearly upon us (in case you failed to notice all the signage and bling that's been adorning every retail outlet ever since Easter!) and as if you didn't have enough to worry about, spare a thought for your pets at this time. If you're anything like my mother, your pet probably gets its own Christmas present and individual plum pudding, but this can be a hazardous time for pets, so I've put together a Christmas survival check list to ensure your pets get through this time smoothly.
· Kennels – if you're planning to go away, you should have organised “accommodation” for your pets by now. If not, stop reading and pick up the phone NOW! Remember, dogs and cats need to be vaccinated to stay in a kennel or cattery. They will want to see a certificate of this, so if you've lost it, ask your vet for a new one. Many kennels have a rule requiring your pet to have been vaccinated more than 2 weeks prior to admission, so don't leave this until the last minute! If Rex is staying with granny or the kids, make sure you've written out clear instructions on feeding etc. and given them your vet's details. It can also be an idea to notify your vet of the situation, I often find 18yr olds are not that keen to pay for veterinary bills! If granny is the carer, it can be amusing to weigh your Labrador before and after and take bets on how much weight they'll gain!
· After hours veterinary care – most of us vets are human and like to take some time off to spend with the family as well. Check with your vet what their opening hours will be over the Christmas period and get the details for after hours emergency care. Pets have a wonderful ability to get sick at 11pm Christmas eve! If your pet is on medication or a prescription diet, stock up in advance as most of our veterinary wholesalers close over the holiday period.
· Christmas food – trust me, your pet (whether they're religious or not,) has no concept of Christmas or New Year. Unlike us, they have not been looking forward to turkey with lashings of cranberry, prawns in exotic Asian spices, or piles of thick cut ham for the last 3 months. Let alone fruit cake and chocolate on tap! Many of these foods are toxic or dangerous to your pets. The following foods can be toxic: raisins, sultanas, grapes, onions, chocolate, macadamia nuts, and avocado. Cooked bones can splinter and perforate intestines. High fat foods (ham, sausages, BBQ leftovers) can cause pancreatitis. Christmas decorations are often swallowed (particularly by cats) and can cause obstructions. There is often more garbage around which pets can get into. Beer bottle tops, tin cans, plastic food wrapping and kebab skewers can all be dangerous. To be safe, plain cooked veggies, rice, and small amounts of plain meat like turkey are all ok. Boring, sure, but see line one above!!
· Fireworks – Luckily, for pets, fireworks are strictly controlled in Australia. However, if you anticipate some firework activity, and your pet is scared of these, talk to your vet about options to help this. There are training techniques, pheromone collars, and medications that can assist. If you're away, ensure your pet can't escape if spooked.
· Heat stroke – This is a warm time of year, and with the kids at home, poor old Dozer the Staffy (who has basically been eating and sleeping for 11 months) is suddenly subjected to 10hr runs in the park every day. This is very exciting for Dozer, and the warning signs his heart and lungs are giving, are quickly overruled by the “fun” centre of his brain. Dogs can't sweat so have to pant to cool down and with all this activity Dozer's body temperature can rapidly rise above safe levels, and his airways can collapse. This is a particular problem in brachycephalic (flat nosed) dogs. (If you're running around in the park with your cat, that's very special and my only advice would be upload it to youtube!)
· Microchipping – we see a high number of lost animals during the holidays with everyone away on holiday, storms and fireworks scaring pets to run away and crowds of inebriated relatives pushing pets to their limits! So if your pet is not microchipped, this is a good time to consider getting it done. If your pet is already microchipped, ensure your details are up to date.
· Christmas presents – Yes, go on, buy your pet a little something for Christmas! A new collar and lead, or maybe a little fluffy mouse for the cat. And while you're at the shops, what about a bottle of whisky for your vet!? Just don't mix those up, or you'll end up at the clinic with a pet suffering from alcohol poisoning, to see a vet who thinks you're a bit suspect!!