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Deck the paws – keep your pets safe and out of the vets this Christmas

The RSPCA is urging pet-owners to be paws-itively prepared for any emergencies which arise over Christmas – and to ensure that the festive time is as non-stressful as possible for our fluffy friends.

From toxic foods, the dangers of decorations and keeping your pet calm among the Christmas chaos, here are some of the RSPCA’s top tips for a ‘pet-safe’ Christmas…

  1. Chocolate tree decorations

Most pet owners know that chocolate is toxic to their furry friends; but chocolate tree decorations can sometimes be overlooked. When you’re decorating your tree, avoid hanging chocolate decorations and, instead, pop the family’s sweet treats somewhere safe and out of your pets’ reach. 

Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine, which can cause toxic effects in cats and dogs. The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies depending on the quality and type of chocolate. Even a relatively small amount of dark chocolate (which has a high concentration of theobromine) can cause agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions and heart disturbances. 

Also keep your pets safe by making sure all food is stored securely out of reach and never leave your pets unattended with food. Don’t forget the presents on and under the tree! Many pets are curious and will sniff out tasty gifts. If you think your pet has eaten anything they shouldn’t have,  stay calm and speak to your vet immediately.

  1. Tinsel and wrapping paper

Tinsel and wrapping paper might be tempting for your pet to play with – but make sure they don’t eat it! Cardboard boxes can be great fun for our pets, however, and you could use leftover boxes from presents to make your cat a special castle

  1. Festive bakes

We all love a Christmas pudding and tasty cake over the holidays but did you know some of the popular ingredients can be incredibly dangerous to your four-legged friends? Raisins, currants and sultanas – commonly added to festive bakes – are poisonous along with additive xylitol.

  1. Macadamia nuts

Another food to keep your pets away from.  They are toxic to dogs. Most other nuts are okay although it is important to state that they should be kept away from dogs as could pose a choking hazard and like any food they aren’t used to they should not eat them as could upset their stomach.

  1. Plants

Festive plants such as poinsettias, holly, ivy and mistletoe can be toxic to pets. Lilies can be very dangerous for cats. 

  1. Cooked bones and leftovers

Never feed dogs or cats cooked bones as these can splinter and cause internal injuries. Onions, leeks and garlic can also be toxic to pets. Leftover pigs in blankets, gravy and stuffing shouldn’t be fed to pets due to their high salt content but other parts of the Christmas dinner can be fed as treats if you have leftovers; such as small amounts of cooked turkey and carrots (dogs).

  1. Alcohol

You should never give your pet alcohol as this could make them sick.

  1. Silica gel

Small sachets of silica gel are often found in packaging and may be inside Christmas presents. The gel can cause your pet stomach upset if ingested.

Plan ahead this Christmas

RSPCA pet welfare expert Jane Tyson said: “Keep your pets safe this Christmas by swotting up on what can be dangerous; no one wants an expensive vet visit this festive season! 

“Christmas presents, special treats and extra fun can all be part and parcel of a pet’s Christmas experience. But while the celebrations can be great for pets, there’s a risk that the time of year can also prove hazardous and stressful for them. 

“Some festive favourites can be dangerous for pets such as Christmas pudding, mince pies and chocolate, so make sure they are kept out of reach and stored securely. 

“Skinless and boneless white meat such as turkey is okay for dogs and cats, but be careful that it’s not covered in fat, salt or gravy. 

“It’s best for your pets to stick to their normal food. If you do want to treat your pet to some festive bites, try our easy-to-make cat and dog treats that you can find on our website. Be sure to feed treats in moderation, as extra weight isn’t good for their health!”

Christmas is also a chaotic time and this could cause pets to feel stressed.

“You can help your pet cope with the chaos by keeping to their normal routine as much as possible,” said Jane. “It will also help your pet if you provide them with somewhere cosy and quiet where they can retreat to if the excitement gets too much.

“You might have lots of guests coming and going, so make sure doors aren’t left open because there would be a chance that your pet could get out when you aren’t watching.

“Also always ensure you have plenty of food and medication for the holiday season – when shops may be shut – and know contact details for your nearest emergency vets just in case you need help.”

The RSPCA has revealed this week that cases of neglect and abandonment have risen as the cost of living crisis bites and with more people struggling, we expect more animals will come into our care.

This is why the charity launched its Winter appeal to help raise funds so they can keep rescuing and rehoming pets – and we are urging the public to support us.

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