From filling their stockings with treats to keeping them calm during the festivities, here’s how to make sure your pets are happy, healthy (and spoilt) during the holidays...
- The best gifts are the ones that keep your pet stimulated and provide long-term value
- Which festive foods can be toxic to pets?
- How can you keep your pet calm during the holiday fun?
These days, our pets are more than just pets – they’re part of the family. So, at Christmas, when families gather or we have time at home to eat, make merry and share gifts, we want our pets to join in the fun.
But how can you make sure your pets stay happy and healthy while joining in the festive fun? Read our tips and tricks on how to have a merry Christmas with your pet, from gift ideas and foods to avoid to the best ways to minimise any stress, especially if you're coming and going from the house more than usual.
Seasonal gift giving
We all love our pets, so why not tick a few things off their Christmas list? From pet-friendly fashion to the latest tech, you’re bound to find a little inspiration in our gift buying guide for dogs and cats.
Personalised presents make for unique gifts that’ll leave your pet the envy of their furry friends. You’ll find plenty of places online to customise your pet gear with embroidery or custom printing. From beds and pillows to biscuits and beer, you can mark up a whole range of pet-centric presents with your pet’s beloved brand.
Sites like yappy.com are great places to start – we’re big fans of a stylish neckerchief decorated with a pooch’s face and a strategy cat game.
Not that there isn’t space for a personalised pet towel in your life, but gifts that serve a purpose are usually the best things you can buy your pet. Not only will they spread a little joy and make your dog or cat happy, often they make your life easier too.
Cold weather is no fun on a daily walk, so be sure your dog wraps up warm with a cosy jumper or wet-weather jacket, especially if they’re small or short-haired. Or, track your pooch’s activity levels with a pet pedometer, to ensure they’re hitting their steps target when on your morning stroll.
Cat owners will know that our feline friends can be inquisitive. Keep your cat active and engaged with a new cat tower or scratching post. Your furry friend will be able to watch the wonderful chaos of Christmas from the comfort of their watchtower – and they’ll have plenty of fun with the packaging afterwards.
There are also toys that encourage stimulation and interaction, which can be a fantastic gift to keep your cat amused. Play circuits and interactive balls are often big hits with most felines.
Gifts for the ‘Gram
A cute gift can be a great present for a good-looking pet. Just be sure that your pet is happy with anything you decide to dress them in, as some dogs and cats aren’t fans of dressing-up.
Dressing up as Santa Paws with a dog-friendly Santa’s hat or a pair of felt reindeer antlers can help your pet join the party. If you’re buying these presents, just make sure they’re made from pet-friendly materials and take them off if your pet is showing any signs of discomfort.
One of the ways we reward our dogs when they've been good is to treat them with food. But watch out - what we consider a treat, especially at Christmas, can be extremely dangerous for dogs.
Foods you should never feed your dog
One of the ways we reward our dogs when they've been good is to treat them with food. But watch out - what we consider a treat, especially at Christmas, can be extremely dangerous for dogs. To prevent a trip to the emergency vet this festive season, here are seven foods to avoid giving your pooch.
It's hard to imagine how something so delicious could ever be harmful. But as all good dog owners know, chocolate can be extremely poisonous for dogs. Chocolate contains naturally-occurring chemicals – caffeine and theobromine. Dogs who eat chocolate can suffer from vomiting, heart palpitations, tremors, seizures and even death. Save your dog a trip to the vets and keep chocolate well out of your pooch's reach.
2. Onion and garlic
You'd never think the humble onion could upset your dog's digestion so much. Or that an accidentally gulped bulb of garlic could lead to red blood cell damage. Avoid giving your dog onions and garlic – even if it's just a small amount amongst other table scraps. Interestingly, cats are more susceptible to getting ill from eating onions but dogs are also at risk if they've scoffed a lot.
A delicious tub of fresh guacamole, or thick slices of avocado on a salad is such a treat for humans – but can be extremely bad for dogs. Avocados contain a toxin called persin, which can cause upset stomachs, breathing difficulties or even fluid build-up in your dog's chest. Even more dangerous is the slippery stone in the middle. It can be a choking hazard if it gets stuck in a dog's throat, or cause pain and suffering if swallowed.
4. Raisins and grapes
At Christmas, raisins are everywhere - mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, and chocolate covered raisins. Unfortunately, the most poisonous fruit your dog can eat are grapes and raisins. Many dogs get very ill after eating these, suffering from vomiting, dehydration, diarrhoea and even rapid kidney failure.
5. Corn on the cob
Corn on the cob may seem like a delicious and healthy treat for both humans and dogs, but our canine pals can't easily digest sweetcorn. If they swallow the cob too, it can get trapped in their digestive system, leading to intestinal blockage and abdominal pain.
6. Macadamia nuts
These nuts are a no-no for your dog. Scientists don't know why this popular human treat affects dogs so badly, but you'll know if your dog has sneakily eaten macadamia nuts: he may become weak and have trouble walking, get tremors or even hypothermia.
7. Chewing gum
This seems like a no brainer – although sometimes our dog's breath is so bad that it might be very tempting to give him gum. Sugar-free chewing gum (in fact, any food containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener) is highly toxic for dogs. Even a small amount can lead to lethargy, vomiting, seizures and liver problems. Keep sugar-free foods well out of your dog's reach. If you want to freshen his breath, try giving him a carrot instead.
And what about that one food that your dog can eat but shouldn't?
Cooked bones! You'd think that giving your dog the leftover bones from your Sunday roast would be a delicious treat, and your dog would certainly agree.
Unfortunately for Rover, bones can often lead to an emergency trip to the vets. Roasting meat makes the bones inside more brittle, meaning they're likely splinter when your dog starts to chew on them.
Dogs can break their teeth on tougher bones and shards of bone can get stuck in their mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. In the worst cases, this can be life threatening and may need emergency surgery to remove.
So, sorry boy – cooked bones are off the menu. Raw bones from your butcher are safe, but check with your vet if in doubt.
What to do if your dog needs to see a vet over Christmas
Existing LV= pet insurance customer? If you need advice over the festive period, don’t forget you get unlimited access to FirstVet, a free 24/7 video chat service where you can talk to a vet.
Remember, if your pet is seriously injured, or in need of immediate medical assistance, you should take them straight to your local practice.
While this year, many of us are likely to be staying closer to home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Christmas can still mean a change in routine for our pets. This can lead to stress and uncertainty – even new Christmas decorations can upset the balance for some cats or dogs. Pets at Home has some great tips on how to make sure your cat or dog isn’t stressed at Christmas, including:
- Making sure your pet has a quiet place to escape to, like a crate or a cosy cat bed
- Keeping all alcoholic beverages out of reach, as these are toxic to pets
- Being careful when pulling crackers, party poppers or letting off fireworks as loud noises can spook pets
- Keeping Christmas plants out of reach – some of them, like mistletoe and poinsettia are mildly toxic if eaten by pets.
- Keeping an eye on decorations – make sure they’re safe from inquisitive chewers!
- Anchoring your Christmas tree, especially if you have a climbing cat
- Avoiding putting edible gifts under the Christmas tree, just in case they’re toxic to your pets
Remember, if you’re heading out on a winter walk, keep a close eye on your pets’ paws as they can get irritated or suffer abrasions because of grit and other chemicals used to grit roads. Read all the tips in our guide on how to keep your pets safe in winter.
We hope you and your furry friends have a very merry festive season. Don’t forget to make sure your pet insurance is all up to date so you can enjoy the holidays with complete peace of mind.
All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.
LV= is not responsible for content on third party websites.