A vet shares expert advice on the health risks that can affect your pet over summer and the festive season.
The festive season brings with it all sorts of delights, including delicious meals, lazy days and sunny rays. And while these things are all brilliant, it’s important to be aware of some of the health risks for our pets. Here, Dr Nick Taylor of Greencross Vets shares some things to keep an eye on at this time of year.
You may think that you’re treating your pet when you share a bit of the Christmas ham with them, but remember that your pet’s tolerance for rich foods is much lower than yours.
One of the most common issues at this time of year is overindulgence. Pancreatitis is a sudden, often severe and painful illness that can come from your pet overdoing it on leftovers or raiding the bins. Keep your bins well sealed and out of reach. High-fat meats are particularly dangerous for dogs – so the Christmas trimmings and fat are definitely off the menu.
Some of the ingredients that feature in the food of the season, including onion and garlic, are poisonous to our pets – both dogs and cats – and macadamia nuts are also associated with toxicity and diarrhoea in dogs. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and should never be shared with them. Raisins, grapes and sultanas that are often found in fruit cake, mince pies or pavlova are also toxic and off the menu
We all know the frustration of the long drive to our holiday destination, and pets can often feel this more acutely. Some pets can experience travel anxiety, so a pet carrier might help them to feel more relaxed. If you plan on using one, let them sleep a few nights inside with toys before you leave to help them feel comfortable and secure before the journey. If you aren’t using a carrier, be aware that your pet must be safely and securely restrained. Check in with your state’s traffic authority website to find out more.
Some pets struggle with travel sickness, so you should avoid feeding them on the morning before a big trip. You can also find a range of safe and effective anti-nausea travel medications from your local Greencross Vets team. Even if your pet is a seasoned traveller, the ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’ rules apply to them, too. Stop every two hours so they can stretch their legs, use the bathroom and have a big drink of water. Placing a small towel over the your cat’s travel carrier may assist the weary feline. There are also dog and cat specific natural pheromones that may help to keep your pet calm during their travels.
3. Heat exhaustion
Australian summers are hot and humid and pets are more prone to heat stress over this period. Be sure that your pet has lots of water from multiple sources at all times and, if it’s really hot, perhaps they could spend some time in the tiled bathroom or laundry. Pets that really struggle with the heat will benefit from a fan. It’s good to put ice cubes in their water or make some healthy frozen treats for them. Never leave pets in cars unattended or leave them tied up in direct sunlight. Signs of heat stress include uncontrolled panting, bright red gums and tongue, and collapse. If you notice any of these signs, you should seek help from your local Greencross Vets team immediately.
4. Seasonal parasites
During the summer, ticks and fleas are at their worst. If you’re travelling to a holiday destination with your pet, be sure to check if it’s a tick hotspot as tick paralysis can be fatal.
Fleas are also more active in the summer and are associated with irritation, itching and allergic dermatitis in some dogs and cats, but don’t forget that fleas will bother you, too! There are a number of products available to treat ticks and fleas on dogs and cats – remember that some dog products are toxic to cats and should not be used on dogs in families that also have cats. Your Petbarn or Greencross Vets team will be able to advise you on which products are suitable for your pet.
5. Wrapping and decorations
Baubles, lights, tinsel, wrapping and cracker toys are at their best on the tree, but can cause huge problems for your pets. Shimmering and bright tinsel, toys and baubles will draw pets’ interest and they will often end up accidentally ingesting them. Sometimes they can become stuck and require surgery to remove them. Prevent access to the tree prior to Christmas with a playpen fence or keep the tree in a room you can close off.
On Christmas morning, be careful with the decorative elements and perhaps set your dog up outside with a meal or chew treat. Avoid cats playing with ribbons as these too can cause problems if eaten.
The year always ends with a bang – literally. Fireworks can be a major source of noise phobia for our pets, especially dogs. If there are fireworks in your area over New Year’s Eve and your pet reacts badly, there are some ways to minimise stress. Ensure that your pets are indoors and secure well ahead of the scheduled time. Create a cave-like retreat for them in a room that can be made as dark and quiet as possible, with their normal bed or other familiar items in that area with a small amount of food and water available. Here, your pet will feel more secure.
For animals that have a history of phobia there is a range of very effective strategies and medications and other strategies available via your local Greencross Vets team.
7. The beach
Some pets love hitting the beach just as much as we do, but remember that salt water can spell trouble for some pets. If your dog drinks too much sea water, they’ll vomit so keep an eye on how much they are ingesting and take fresh water for them to drink. Their skin can also become irritated when the salt water dries, so be sure to give them a rinse down when you get home.
Just as we wouldn’t swim at the beach after stormy weather, it’s important that your pet doesn’t either as we all know how they love to find the smelliest thing they can.
Whatever you have planned for the festive season, be sure you locate your nearest Greencross Vets team for any emergencies. You and your pets are sure to have a safe and happy festive season with proper planning.