Doggy Dangers at Christmas | Dr Alex Hynes

Doggy Dangers at Christmas | Dr Alex Hynes

Keeping your pooch safe during Christmas

Christmas time is fast approaching and there is nothing better than spending time with family, friends and our fur babies. However festive fun can quickly turn into a Christmas calamity, as there are many dangers for our beloved dogs during the holiday season.

There are many things to consider when keeping your dog happy, healthy and safe this Christmas... and away from the emergency hospital.

Festive Foods

During the holiday season, there is much more food around and perhaps we are a little more distracted than usual. This creates opportunity for food grabbing moments for our precious pooches, who given just a little chance will take it will gusto.

When you are preparing food, make sure to keep dogs in a separate room, keep food out of reach and completely sealed, don’t leave food related items wrapped under the Christmas tree as the smell of food could be too much to resist, and if there are any spillages or leftovers ensure they are tidied and disposed of quickly.

Some foods can cause gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea, however, depending on the amount ingested, others which are toxic cause more serious symptoms such as heart arrhythmias, seizures, or even organ damage. If you suspect ingestion of a toxic food, you must consult your vet straight away.

My book First Call For Dogs comes with a handy fridge magnet showing the danger foods for dogs - you may be surprised to see how many are in your kitchen!

Heat Stroke / Overheating

As the weather heats up certain breeds, such as brachycephalic dogs (those with shorter noses like pugs and bulldogs), are at an increased risk, but any dog of any size or age can suffer from heat related illnesses if it is super hot and humid. Always ensure your dog has access to fresh water - keep a few water bowls around the home but avoid using stainless steel bowls as these can heat up very quickly. Provide shaded spots around the home and when outside keep them shaded and avoid direct sunlight. Try to time walks in the coolest parts of the day, and avoid excessive activity in the heat and humidity. Also, never leave a dog in a hot confined space such as a car, even a couple of minutes could prove fatal.

It’s not just the heat from above that is a cause for concern, but also the ground underneath their paws. Before taking your dog on a walk, touch the pavements with the back of your hand and if it’s too hot for you then it will be too hot for your pet. Avoid walking them on concrete and hard grounds, where possible try and stick to grass where it will be cooler for them.

Accidental Drowning

There is nothing better than spending time over the Christmas holidays playing and cooling off at the beach or by a pool, however is important to remember that dogs inhaling just 1-3 ml of water per their weight can result in a near drowning incident.

Even if they are a competent swimmer or love water, understanding the dangers and acting fast is vital. If your dog is playing by the sea make sure they are watched at all times and try to stop them from going into deep water. If you throw a ball into the sea they will continue to try to find it, and this could lead to them taking in too much of the salt water which can cause severe illness associated with salt levels in the body or if the waves hit them just as they take a big breath this could result in inhalation of water.

If you are getting together with friends and family over Christmas where there will be a pool, make sure that gates are always closed and try to keep pups away from the edge, it is a good idea to remove any toys or items that could grab their attention.

Even playtime with hoses or sprinklers, which are great for cooling down, should be monitored closely by a responsible adult.

Dog Fights at Gatherings

Christmas happens to be one of the busiest times of the year in emergency, as many dog fights occur when families and friends gather with their dogs. With heightened emotions, new people, new places and new toys dogs can easily become agitated and stressed. They can also be a tad possessive over their toys, food and family members.

With dog fight wounds, it is important to remember that the visible injury is usually the tip of the iceberg masking a much more serious injury underneath. So, if a dog fight occurs then veterinary attention should be sought immediately. You can stop active bleeding by placing a clean cloth on the wound and applying pressure. Keep your dog calm and warm by wrapping them in a blanket, but try not to handle them too much as they are likely to be in pain.

Make sure this Christmas you plan ahead and ensure if you are visiting new places, or having people coming to your home, firstly ensure family and friends (especially children) understand the rules, and your dog has a quiet and secure area for them to retreat to if they need.

Christmas is a great time for all the family including our four-legged friends so being prepared is the best way to keep them safe and happy so everyone can enjoy the fun!

Dr Alex Hynes


About the author: Dr Alex Hynes is an emergency veterinarian and director at Animal Emergency Service in Brisbane. Alex will be starring in the new-look Bondi Vet, coming to Channel Nine in 2019.

Alex recently released her book – First Call For Dogs, a MUST for any dog owner his book offers simple, concise and helpful information on the most common emergency illnesses and injuries for dogs.
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