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While Santa’s sleigh is travelling at 3,765,865 km/h to make it to every house in one night, it feels like we’re moving at the same speed, just trying to manage the chaos of the festive season. Presents, Christmas trees, braais, family, friends, holidays, planning New Year’s Eve, school books, blazers, what 2019 has in store… the list of things we need to be paying attention to seems never-ending.

But while all this is going on, the LAST thing you want is to be sitting in the vet’s waiting room as well. Here are a few things you can avoid in order to make sure your fur-kids are having as good a time as everyone else in the family this time of the year.

 

NO BONES – JUST NO. FULL STOP


Ever since Ebenezer Scrooge gave a turkey to the Cratchit family in Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol”, there have been ample turkey bones around for Max and Molly to crunch on. “But we have always given our dogs bones” you say? “And don’t dogs evolve from wolves? They eat bones, so why shouldn’t our dogs get SOME? They soooo love it”.

Well, 94% of dogs with foreign body obstructions in the oesophagus are due to feeding bones. A study done over 5 years showed that dogs with a bone stuck in their oesophagus were more likely to have complications compared to any other object that gets stuck like cloth, plastic etc.

I’m not sure about you but tooth fractures, bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, choking and bleeding gums are NOT welcome at my Christmas dinner table.

 

NOT ALL DOGS ARE PHELPS’
 

Doggy drownings are very common at this time of year, and no not all dogs are good swimmers. Certain breeds like Scotties just seem to be made of lead and Bulldogs have trouble breathing on land as it is.

Puppies and blind, geriatric doggies tend to be more prone to drowning. So, if you are going to the beach, invest in a life jacket to be safe.

Braais and festivities at home can turn sour if you aren’t keeping an eye on the pool and while we don’t have proper statistics for South Africa, the USA reports well over 40 000 doggie drownings and Australia well over 1 300 a year. That’s far more than children, so please keep an eye on your fur kids around the watering hole.

Teach them to swim and have steps or a net that they have been trained to use should they fall in.

 

AVOID THOSE JUICY FAT TRIMMINGS


We know that 61% of families include their dogs at Christmas dinner but please remember that they can’t overindulge like we do. A simple Rennies won’t cut it for our pets.

Although they do love it, the fat off your lamb-tjoppie or biltong won’t just add centimetres to their waistline, but it could cause a life-threatening and very painful condition called pancreatitis.

Though we don’t fully understand exactly how pancreatitis is triggered, the jist of it is that the enzymes which are produced to digest food are activated prematurely and they basically “digest” the tissue in and around the pancreas. This inflammation causes a cascade of events which causes systemic disease and can lead to death. So to be safe, just steer clear of that altogether.

 

KEEP THEM OFF THE ROAD
 

The number of pets hit by cars dramatically increases over the festive season. With more people coming and going at home, there’s a greater chance that your dog can run out onto the road. There’s an equally scary risk when dogs and cats are left at home alone.

Cats tend to wander when their owners aren’t home and dogs can dig under fences, climb trees (yes you heard me right) and make miraculous escapes even when you have a house sitter.

The number of stray dogs increases drastically over the festive season. Make sure all your animals are microchipped and tagged so if they do manage to scale the walls, they can find their way back.

Make sure that you keep your pet’s details up to date too. See the sites below to make sure your details are correct (depending on which chip your pet has)

https://www.getmeknown.co.za/
http://fivestarid.co.za/
https://backhome.co.za/
http://www.identipet.com/
 

SUGAR FREE IS NOT SAFE
 

We have all heard “mom says chocolate isn’t good for dogs” BUT little known is that an artificial sweetener called Xylitol, found in many sugar-free treats is TERRIBLE for them too.

Within 12 hours of eating a xylitol-containing product, it can cause a dog’s blood sugar levels to crash which can lead to disorientation, weakness and seizures.

It can also cause liver damage and clotting problems.

In the UK, 5.5million pet owners unknowingly feed their fur-kids harmful foods at Christmas time so don’t be a statistic and read those labels. Xylitol can be found in many things: chewing gum, sweets, cakes and mouthwash to name a few. 


There are MANY foods that are not safe for dogs. “Well it’s obvious” you say. Take this quiz https://www.akc.org/dog-food-quiz/ and see whether your knowledge is up to scratch.

 

SO STAY SAFE THIS CHRISTMAS, AND…
 

Most importantly, spend some time showing your pup how much you love her and appreciate how she got you through this tough year. Or spend some time showing your kitty how much you love him and appreciate that he lets you be his owner (slave). I know I wouldn’t have made it without my fur-family this year so “Furry Christmas” everyone and paws up to a super 2019!
 

Dr Tanya Viljoen
After studying at Onderstepoort, Tanya worked in private practice for 4 years focused mainly on dogs and cats. She believes that the human- animal bond is a precious and essential part of life.
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