The festive season is one of joy, but it also comes with some potential perils for your furry friends. Keep them safe and sound with these preventative measures and first aid basics.

The holidays allow you to kick back, relax and reconnect with friends and family. It also gives you time to spend with your pets something that isn’t easy when balancing a full-time job and social and familial commitments!

But while the festive season can be filled with joy, this can be marred by an accident or emergency involving your furkids. 

Fortunately, most emergency situations can be avoided by taking adequate precautions. Here are five things to beware of when it comes to your pet’s safety over the festive season so that you can be prepared and have peace of mind.


1. Festive feasting


Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season is the food. With most of us going overboard, there are often scraps, leftovers and bones that end up on Fido’s plate. But this should be kept to a minimum and done with caution. 


Christmas foods are loaded with ingredients that are known to be harmful to pets, such as raisins, alcohol and chocolate. Make sure that you don’t leave any food-related gifts within your pet’s reach. 


While you might want your furry friends to join you in the feasting, this can have an impact on their weight. Not only that, but cooked bones particularly chicken bones can splinter, leading to choking or even internal injury to their throats or gastrointestinal tract. Best to stick to legitimate pet treats!


2. Dangerous décor


The holidays often come with decorating and changes the decor to evoke a festive feel. But some of the decorations we choose can be dangerous to our furry friends. A good example of this is tinsel, which can lead to intestinal obstructions, and the need for surgery, if consumed. 


Red, vibrant poinsettia plants are also commonly associated with Christmas. These plants, however, have sadly taken the lives of some curious cats. Vets do say that death is from ingesting poinsettias is rare, but animals can, nevertheless, experience some nasty side effects, such as diarrhoea, itchiness and irritation to the face, eyes and mouth and excessive drooling. Best to keep them out of reach or, preferably out of your house. Because it’s better safe than sorry! 


3. Stay cool


Living in the southern hemisphere means that we get to enjoy a sun-filled festive season. But too much time enjoying the warm weather can have negative consequences for humans and pets alike. 


Many pets, but especially active dogs, are prone to heatstroke. This can be avoided by limiting their time outdoors during the hottest times of the day, encouraging them to spend time in the shade and ensuring they have access to plenty of water. This potentially fatal condition can also occur when animals are left alone in hot cars, where the temperature inside the vehicle can become significantly hotter than it is outside.


If you suspect that your pet is dehydrated and in is in the early stages of heatstroke, move them into a cool, shady spot, provide them with water and wrap them in a damp towel, replacing it every few minutes, to help their body to cool down.


4. Out and about


Many people (and often their four-legged friends) go away on holiday for the festive period to spend time in nature. This is something pooches love new terrain to explore! but can result in injury or illness. 


Before you leave, make sure that your pet is up-to-date with their flea and tick medication as well as their rabies vaccination in case they come into contact with other animals and harmful parasites. Additionally, look up the name and location of the closest vet to your accommodation in the event that you need to rush your cat or dog there in an emergency. 


It’s also a good idea to put together a first aid kit containing bandages, a cone collar, medical tape, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, tweezers and some animal-safe disinfectant. 


5. Keep calm


The festive period comes with plenty of friends, family and fun. But it can also bring with it a fair amount of stress. Your pets pick up on this, and may also feel anxious by the constant coming and going of visitors. Fireworks are also common, especially over the New Year period, which can cause severe panic and anxiety in many domestic animals and the surrounding wildlife.  


Create a safe space for them and try to drown out the outdoor sounds with music or a white noise machine. It’s also important to comfort and reassure them during these stressful episodes. 


There are also a number of calming supplements and medications available through your local vet, which can help bring on a sense of calm especially in nervous pets. 


Emergency contacts


Got a medical emergency that needs the attention of a vet? Here are practices open 24/7 365 days a year to attend to your pet’s needs.


  • Cape Town Panorama Veterinary Clinic / 021 930 6632
  • Johannesburg Parklands Veterinary Clinic / 011 447 6379
  • Durban Westville Veterinary Hospital / 031 267 8000


Think before you gift


The festive season, and the period following it, sees an influx of unwanted pets arriving at animal shelters the world over, and South Africa is no different. This is due to a number of factors. One of them is that people want to go away on holiday but can’t take their pets with them. The most common reason is that puppies and kittens are often given as Christmas presents but are abandoned when the novelty wears off or they become too much of a handful.


Pets are a lifelong commitment, and while waking up to a soft, cuddly bundle of joy on Christmas morning would make anyone’s day merry and bright, it’s important to consider your, or the recipient’s, lifestyle before taking on the responsibility of a new furry friend.


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