Pet answers: pets at Christmas

Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your animal health questions

My dog really doesn’t like fireworks and I’m dreading the Christmas season coming up. Is there anything I can do to help him?
Oh dear. Unfortunately, fear of fireworks is one of the most common phobias we see in dogs and can be really distressing for both you and them. The first thing to do is get prepared! When the fireworks season approaches, make sure cats and dogs are inside with windows and doors shut and curtains drawn. Play some music or put the television on to help drown out those scary bangs and build a den for your dog to hide in. This can be as simple as draping a thick blanket over a dog crate or even just using blankets and cushions to create a dark, secluded place behind the sofa (remember those fort-building skills as a child!). Place their favourite toys in there and a familiar dog cushion or blanket and encourage them to use it before the actual fireworks begin. Pheromone diffusers are excellent at reducing stress but they will need to be in place at least a couple of weeks before fireworks season to work at their best. For the really worried canines, speak to your vet beforehand as they can often prescribe calming medication to be used on the night. The Adaptil website (www. also has some great tips and tricks. Lastly, once the New Year’s Eve bangs are over, it’s time to talk to your veterinary practice and discuss how to address your dog’s phobia and give him confidence to face next years festive season. This can involve using pheromone diffusers and starting a desensitisation programme to gradually build up tolerance to fireworks, so that hopefully next year, you’ll both have a much calmer time!

This will be our first Christmas with our kitten. I can’t wait for her to see the Christmas tree and fairy lights but I heard that some things can be dangerous for cats?
How lovely! I love kittens but they can certainly be trouble, especially when it comes to Christmas decorations and ornaments! As you’ve probably found, kittens investigate everything and seem determined to climb up/on/over/ around anything in the house. This does mean we have to put some measures in place to prevent them from hurting themselves or making themselves ill, especially at Christmas time. There are many plants and foods that are toxic to cats, including poinsettia, lilies, mistletoe, chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, so make sure your kitten can’t access any of these. Tinsel can pose a choking hazard to overplayful cats and keep fairy lights out of reach as chewing on one of these cables can result in a nasty electrical shock. Although we will often get a bit merry around Christmas, make sure you don’t leave any human hangover cures lying around. Drugs like paracetemol and ibuprofen can be poisonous to dogs and cats. Finally, after a bit of preventative planning to keep your feline friend from getting into trouble, you can both relax and enjoy the festivities!

I’m going away over the holiday period and I’m worried about putting my dog in kennels. She’s never been in one before and I don’t want her to get stressed. Can you recommend anything?
Putting your dog or cat in kennels for the first time can be really stressful, for both you and them. We worry about whether our pets will eat and drink as normal and how they will feel being away from home. A good kennels or cattery will immediately understand this and work with you to help your dog or cat feel at home. I always recommend visiting the kennels beforehand to walk around and see what the accommodation is like. Feel free to ask questions about how they feed and exercise the animals in their care and whether they have different approaches to elderly or nervous animals. Once you have selected your kennel or cattery of choice, it can be worthwhile booking your pet in for a trial stay of just one night. A good kennels will make this a really positive experience for your pet so that when it comes to staying there for longer, your dog or cat is already viewing it as a fun place to stay! Lastly, take some familiar items with you to make them feel at home; I always include a favourite blanket and treats as well as some toys.

Do you have a pet or animal health question? Send it to us at: . Holly will endeavour to answer all questions, whether published or not!

Dr Holly Norman BSc (Hons) BVetMed MRCVS veterinary surgeon and Joint Venture Partner at: Peterborough Vets4Pets 231-233 St Paul’s Road Peterborough PE1 3RL Tel: 01733 890777 & Bretton Vets4Pets Inside Pets at Home Unit 2 The Bretton Centre Peterborough PE3 8DN Tel: 01733 261094   


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