Pet answers: seasonal stresses!

Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your animal health questions - especially themed for festive felines and Christmas canines...

Q: My dog doesn’t like fireworks going off and I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help her?
Christmas and New Year are such a lovely time of year but many owners dread the inevitable fireworks that seem to occur everywhere. Dogs can find fireworks very stressful and will often pant, pace, try and hide or even howl. This can be really distressing for both you and your dog and it’s key to get prepared.

A few days beforehand, think about using pheromone products such as plug-ins or collars to help reduce stress. There are also pet shirts that act on acupressure points to reduce anxiety and act like a ‘big hug’. Create a ‘den’ for your dog to hide in; this could be their usual crate but covered in thick blankets or even just a space behind the sofa or under the stairs. Use treats to get them used to their ‘den’ and make it a really positive space to be in. It should be dark and snug so they feel secure and hidden.

On the day of the fireworks, make sure doors and windows are closed, curtains are drawn and pets are inside (especially cats). Playing music or having the television on will help to drown out the bangs and it’s important for you to also remain relaxed as your dog will pick up on any anxiety that you are feeling. It’s perfectly fine to reassure your dog if they are scared but remember to do so in a calm way. In some situations, your vet may prescribe medication to help with their anxiety during fireworks season. If you have any questions, get in touch with your veterinary practice and they will be happy to help.

Q: I love Christmas and all of the decorations but my cat keeps climbing up the Christmas tree! How do I stop him from doing this and knocking everything off?
Oh dear! I feel your pain! We spend all this time arranging our Christmas decorations and some cats seem to view them as their own personal playground! Unfortunately the temptation of all those sparkly, jingly decorations is often too much for cats and so I’d recommend making sure they don’t have access to them when you are not able to supervise them. Cats can swallow small decorations or ribbons and tinsel which block the intestines and need surgery. They can also knock decorations over or cause them to break which could become a hazard and we even see some young cats that have had electric shocks from chewing wires of Christmas lights.

Provide lots of other toys in a separate area to encourage safe play and wherever possible, try and limit the decorations that they can reach. If you have a particularly young cat, you may have to think about what decorations you use until they get a bit more grown up and sensible!

Q: Are my pets allowed to have a Christmas dinner?
Ah, now that’s a tricky one… Christmas dinner is one of the highlights of Christmas day and we naturally want our pets to enjoy that experience with us. However, some foods can be poisonous to cats and dogs or, at the very least, give them an upset tummy. Onions and garlic should be avoided along with grapes, raisins, chocolate and alcohol. A little bit of plain turkey breast along with some raw carrot or broccoli is usually enough of a treat. Even better, get them their own good quality treat that is specifically for pets from the pet shop. If you are unsure if a food is poisonous, please contact your local veterinary practice for advice before giving it to them.

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 Practice Partner at:

Peterborough Vets4Pets
231-233 St Paul’s Road
Tel: 01733 890777

Bretton Vets4Pets
Inside Pets at Home
Unit 2 The Bretton Centre
Peterborough, PE3 8DN
Tel: 01733 261094

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