Christmas is meant to be a happy and relaxing time for family and friends, and that includes your much loved pets. The last thing you need at this time of year is to be worrying about your pet’s health or for an easily preventable event to spoil the festive season for all of you.

Most dogs and cats live happily throughout the year, following a predictable daily routine and consistent rules for acceptable behaviour. In some households, the build-up to Christmas is a very busy period, the daily routine changes, family excitement and stress levels increase, and everyone has so much to do that they spend less time with their pet. The house rules are forgotten because of Christmas. Please try to keep to the same daily routine with walks and play sessions, feeding, grooming and just spending enough time with them. It will relax you too.

If you have an anxious or fearful pet, or an older pet, it is important that they can go somewhere to get away from a situation they dislike and can be left alone. The ‘safe-haven’ concept, together with a DAP (pheromone) product, that many of you used for the firework season, is very useful during the festive period for anxious dogs in a hectic household. Feliway (pheromone) products can be used to help reduce stress in anxious cats and they may prefer to live in a separate room while visitors are in the house.

Although it is becoming increasingly more well known that dogs cannot tolerate even a relatively small amount of chocolate, Christmas is a really hazardous time of year and, with the best of intentions there will be chocolate left lying around that the sharp-eyed (and nosed) pets will be quick to find. Effects can range from excitement to sickness and diarrhoea, thirst and eventually fits and cardiac arrest. If you suspect your pet has eaten a significant amount of milk chocolate or even a small amount of dark chocolate, phone us at once. If we are able to make your dog sick within 2 hours of ingestion of the chocolate there is a very low chance he will suffer adverse effects.

It has recently been discovered that grapes and raisins can be extremely poisonous to dogs. While some dogs are known to have consumed large amounts of grapes to no ill effect, for others it has only taken a handful of grapes or raisins to cause fatal acute kidney failure.

Poinsettia is a pot plant with bright red (or cream) flowerlike leaves. Originally a tropical plant, its defence mechanism against predators is an irritant sap. Cats and dogs will suffer much salivation or slavering after chewing on leaves but effects are largely restricted to this irritation.

Holly berries are quite poisonous to dogs and other small animals with reports of only 20 berries being fatal to a large dog. Signs of poisoning include sickness and diarrhoea but can progress to weakness collapse, coma and death. Although there is no specific antidote if you suspect your pet may have eaten a number of these berries phone us at once and there are supportive measures we can use to help your pet through this incident.

Posioning with mistletoe is uncommon but can occur in dogs over the festive period. A small amount of berries may only cause a little sickness and diarrhoea but larger amounts can be fatal. If you think your pet may have consumed some mistletoe berries contact us immediately. Horses and cattle are also susceptible to this toxin.

On behalf of all the team at Donaldson’s Vets, I wish you a safe and very Happy Christmas!