Top tips for keeping your pets happy and healthy this Christmas

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20 December 2017

Christmas is a time for family, friends and fun but it's important to make sure four-legged family members enjoy the celebrations too. A dog behaviour expert from the University of Bristol's Vet School offers some advice for pet owners over the festive season.

A change in routine, extra visitors and excited revelry can be challenging for some dogs.  Dr Emily Blackwell, Senior Lecturer at the Bristol Veterinary School, offers some top tips for keeping pets happy and healthy this Christmas.

Decoration dilemmas
Fairy lights, baubles and tinsel are very appealing to chew, particularly to puppies, so should be safely out of reach when a pup is unsupervised. Food presents under the tree are a favourite too, so ensure these aren't accessible.

Hustle and bustle at home
Raised voices, excited children and laughter can frighten a more sensitive dog and just like people, pets sometimes need somewhere quiet to retreat to, away from the festivities. Provide a dog with a quiet, safe 'den' area, making it comfortable using the dog's bedding and a long-lasting chew. Allow the dog permanent access to the den and ensure that the dog is left undisturbed until they decide to come out and join everyone again.       

Visiting the relatives
Many people take pets along with them when they visit relatives at Christmas, but a dog may take time to adjust to somewhere new.  Take a few home comforts, such as favourite toys, and remember to pack the dog's own bed.

Allow a dog to explore the new place at their own pace and let the dog approach unfamiliar people when they’re ready, rather than being overwhelmed by enthusiastic greetings.

Festive feasting
People want pets to enjoy their Christmas experience, but whilst it's fine to give a dog an occasional special treat, it's important not to change their diet too dramatically, or the dog may end up with an upset tummy.

Some festive foods are extremely harmful to pets, even in small quantities, so make sure that chocolates, raisins (mince pies), grapes, garlic and onions are well out of reach.

Noisy New Year celebrations
Research by Bristol's Vet School suggests that almost half of dogs are fearful of loud noises. The most common noise fear is fireworks, which are often set off at New Year. For some dogs even sounds, such as Christmas crackers being pulled, may frighten them too.

Close the curtains and drown out the bangs with the television or radio.  Provide a dog with a safe den to hide in, or pet him if they prefer to be comforted. If dog owners know that their dog struggles with fireworks, talk to a vet about medication to help them relax.

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