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Dogs Trust issues top tips to keep your pets safe this Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching, and it’s set to be the most wonderful time of the year for many families around the UK. But the festive season can pose a few additional problems for our four-legged friends, and the change of routine and new experiences can be worrying to dogs.
It’s estimated that six out of 10 households now include a canine companion, so dog welfare charity Dogs Trust has issued its top ten tips so the nation’s dogs can enjoy Christmas too. 
  1. Decorations hanging on a tree are incredibly tempting toys for our canine friends, but tree decorations can be dangerous. Small decorations can be easily knocked off the tree and swallowed and broken decorations can get caught in paw pads, so make sure all decorations are well out of reach. 
  1. Keep your dog out of the way while wrapping your presents.  Not only will this stop them running away with your sellotape but will stop them eating wrapping paper, ribbon and tape, all of which can cause serious problems for your dog if swallowed, as can tinsel.  
  1. When the big day finally arrives, many of us will look forward to seeing friends and family, but this might not be something your dog welcomes. Stick to your routine as much as possible and give them an area they can choose to go to for peace and quiet, where they won’t be disturbed. Give them their bed, fresh water and perhaps a chew and set this up as far in advance as possible so they have a chance to get used to it. If your dog isn’t ready to retire for a snooze when guests arrive, you could offer them a long-lasting chew or food puzzle to enjoy. 
  1. Many dog owners will want to spoil their dogs on Christmas day but beware of getting gifts for your dog that could be harmful. Avoid the festively coloured rawhide chews on sale in shops at this time of year as they can be a choking hazard for dogs, and some even contain chemicals that can be dangerous for dogs. When picking toys and balls for your dog, make sure they are appropriate in size so they can’t be swallowed, and remove any broken toys before they become a hazard.  
  1. It might look fun putting a dog in festive fancy dress but while dogs may not feel embarrassed (as far as we know!) they can feel discomfort and irritation, or they may overheat or feel restricted. Instead, why not opt for a festive collar and lead, or a fancy neckerchief and leave the party hats and Christmas jumpers for your family and friends!  
  1. Most of us like to indulge over Christmas, but there are some foods that are toxic for dogs. As well as Christmas chocolates (don’t forget the low-hanging chocolates on the tree which are easy pickings!), they should definitely not eat grapes, raisins, sultanas or foods containing them such as mince pies and Christmas puddings. Also, nuts such as Macadamia nuts along with onion, leek, garlic, and avocado are toxic for dogs as is Xylitol (aka E967 – an artificial sweetener in some sugar- free foods). Rich fatty foods and fat trimmings can also cause serious upset stomachs and cooked bones from Christmas meat can be dangerous. Enjoy the Christmas prosecco, beer and wine yourself but don’t be tempted to share with your dog; alcohol is incredibly toxic to dogs and can cause organ failure and even death. 
  1. Holly, poinsettias and mistletoe are common plants to find in and around homes over the festive period, but all can be toxic to dogs. Keep them up high, and make sure you pick up any dropped holly or mistletoe berries.  
  1. Although most real Christmas trees are non-toxic to dogs, dropped needles can cause stomach upsets if eaten or can get stuck in paws so make sure as many as possible are picked up. It’s not just the needles to be aware of; your dog might get confused by having a ‘tree’ in their home and could try to chew it or even urinate on it if they are used to doing this on trees outside. If you are concerned about your dog toileting on the tree avoid leaving them unsupervised. If your pooch does urinate encourage them outside to finish any business, before cleaning the area thoroughly to minimise the risk of a repeat incident! Remember, dogs learn by positive association so avoid telling your dog off as this won’t help them learn, and may cause future anxieties and behavioural problems.   
  1. Dogs have incredibly sensitive hearing so consider buying bang-free crackers and leave the party poppers off your shopping list. Christmas and New Year is a popular time for fireworks, so have a plan in place in case of any unexpected local displays. There are lots of things you can do to help your dog keep calm when fireworks go off, such as creating a safe and secure den for them to go to if they would like to.
  2. Be prepared for the worst by having your emergency vet contact details handy. Many vet surgeries will be closed on the big day but will have an emergency service in place. If the number for this service is different to your usual vet contact number, make sure you have it written down somewhere safe in case you need to call. 
Jenna Kiddie, Head of Canine Behaviour at Dogs Trust, says:  
“As a nation of dog lovers, our four-legged friends will be a big part of Christmas for many families across the UK. But with unexpected visitors, a change to routine and endless food temptations, our canine companions can find Christmas unsettling and stressful. 
“By following a few simple guidelines, you can make sure that your dog is kept safe and will enjoy Christmas as much as the rest of the family. 
“The team at Dogs Trust would like to wish all our supporters and, of course, the nation’s dogs, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”