For most of us we're now officially on holiday. And while no one can blame us for putting our feet up and taking it easy, we still need to be as mindful of looking after our pets as we are any other time of year, vets warn.
There are a few complaints that vets see more of over the Christmas break, says vet nurse and PURINA Pet Care Advisor Scot Marchant-Ludlow, and some of them can be life-threatening for the animals.
"There is always an increase in dogs who need to be treated after having eaten chocolate," he says.
"Chocolate is toxic to pets (but often loved by dogs) and there is a fairly short time to start effectively treating chocolate toxicity," he says.
Dogs with bowel obstructions and other complications from eating bones (both cooked and raw) are common.
"Owners may think that offering their pets leftover bones from barbecues, or from a cooked Christmas dinner is a nice thing to do but bones can splinter and cause a number of serious issues," Scot says.
Vets see an increase in cats and dogs who have been hit by cars over the Christmas break, perhaps because we're spending more time at home and are not vigilant about keeping the gate shut.
Scot says, "We have also seen both cats and dogs who have tried eating bait on fishing hooks and who required surgery to remove them."
The holidays are often a time when we get stuck into the garden. Scot says, "There are dogs who come in very unwell and requiring intensive treatment after having eaten compost or snail and slug bait."
He adds, "Pets can receive burns when tempted to steal tasty food left on a stove top or a hot barbecue."
So the message is clear - keep an eye on your pets, keep your Christmas dinner leftovers and chocs out of reach and make sure your fur babies are always fenced in.
In the meantime, here are some basic pet care rules to adhere to over summer:
Keeping them cool
Pets can heat up quickly in the summer and this can lead to heat exhaustion that can be fatal. Dogs, in particular, are not good at regulating their body temperature. Keep an eye out for excessive panting, breathing difficulties, weakness, or drooling and to keep your pooch cool try these ideas:
- Keep their water bowls topped up. They'll need to be refilled more regularly during warmer weather. Cats and dogs both love having ice blocks added.
- Exercise is important but walk your dog when the temperature is cooler, in the early morning or evening. "Use the three-second rule," Scot advises. "If the pavement is too hot for you, it is too hot for your pet! Check if it's a safe temperature by holding the back of your hand on the pavement for three seconds. If it's too hot to keep your hand there, your pet shouldn't be walking on it."
- Don't leave your pet in the car for ANY length of time. On a hot day, the temperature of a car interior can become unbearable within a few minutes, even with the windows open and when the car is parked in the shade.
- Give your pooch a paddling pool.
- Make doggie ice blocks - to make, fill an ice cream container or other such container with water, drop in your dog's favourite treat (if you think it will disintegrate put it in a Kong), freeze, and you're done.
- You can find cooling mats for your pet to lie on at most pet stores.
- Stroke your cat with a damp cloth if they'll let you. Attend to their paws, bellies and the outside of their ears.
- Brush your cat regularly. Matted fur works as insulation.
- Relocate birds and smaller animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs to a cooler part of your home.
Pets can get sunburnt too
Just like people, animals can suffer from sunburn! Pets that are fair-skinned or light-haired are particularly susceptible to the sun's rays. Even though fur provides some sun protection, your pet needs sunblock applied every three to four hours on areas of their body that have no, or little, hair-covered spots.
Apply pet-friendly sunscreen to the tips of their ears, end of their nose and on their stomach. Normal sunscreen ingredients contain zinc oxide, which can be toxic to animals, so pet-friendly sunscreen is a must.
Heading away on holiday
If you're heading away on holiday and not taking your pet, organise care for them. Book them into a kennel or cattery, or have a trusted neighbour or friend feed and check on them every day.
If you are taking your pet with you, take them on a few short car trips prior to get them used to travelling in the car. Head to fun places so your pet associates car trips with good times. You can buy pet restraints at most pet stores.
Remember, travelling to a new place can be unsettling for your pet. Identity tags and a microchip are a must.
Last but not least
Even when we do everything right, sometimes things can still go wrong. Check the opening hours / days of your vet clinic over the festive season and make sure you know where to go instead if your clinic is closed and your pet needs veterinary attention.