16 December 2021

Be pup-pared – that’s the message from RSPCA in the lead-up to Christmas, with the day a known minefield for doggy mishaps.  

Google Trends data shows a whopping 230 per cent spike in Aussies searching for an ‘emergency vet’ on Christmas day, with toxic foods and intestinal blockages common culprits.

RSPCA WA Senior Veterinarian Mairi Joyce says pets who eat dangerous foods over the holidays may need their stomach pumped, while things like wrapping paper, decorations and ribbons can cause intestinal blockages, requiring emergency surgery.

‘The cost of emergency vet treatment will easily climb into the thousands, so it’s a good idea for pet owners to refresh their memory on foods which are toxic to pets ahead of the holiday season,’ she says. 

Cooked bones are brittle and can lodge in your pet’s windpipe or stomach, while chocolate, fruit mince pies and Christmas  pudding all contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

Alcohol is another toxic ingredient that is in abundance at holiday parties, so watch your guests aren’t leaving glasses within reach of prying paws. If in doubt, always contact your vet straight away for advice.’

Pet owner Kathrin Terblanche learned the importance of a good hiding spot last Christmas, when her cheeky Maltese Terrier, Scooby, found his way up onto the table to devour an entire advent calendar. 

‘My daughter had been jumping out of bed every morning, excited to open the next door on her calendar,’ Kathrin says.

‘One morning, when she forgot to push a dining room chair in all the way, Scooby seized the chance to get into the spirit himself. We arrived home to find cardboard everywhere, and a very sheepish looking dog.

‘I contacted the vet straight away and was told to monitor him closely for signs such as vomiting or diarrhoea, but thankfully he didn’t need further treatment. Now we’re very careful keep all chocolates and other sweets locked away in high cupboards.’

RSPCA WA warned that stress was another risk to pets over the busy holiday period, with unfamiliar people, children, and loud toys part of many celebrations.

To help pets stress less, exercise them before the festivities begin, and make sure they have a quite place to retreat to if the party gets a bit much. You can use enrichment toys, like Kongs, to keep them distracted.

If your dog licks their lips, shows the whites of their eyes, or turns their head away when a child or adult is patting them, intervene immediately, and take them to their ‘safe space’ to relax.

‘Keeping these dangers in mind should help prevent any mishaps, and ensure the holidays are happy for two and four-legged family members alike,’ Dr Joyce said.

Heading away this festive break? Here's everything you need to know about taking your dog on road trip. Or if your pet is staying put, read RSPCA's tips for picking a good boarding facility