Avoiding A Christmas Crisis

June 3rd, 2008
Avoiding A Christmas Crisis

It’s not just us that are celebrating Christmas day, dogs are also taking part and ending up at vet hospitals around Australia. Alexandra Lazcano investigates what the most common reasons are for pooches ending up in Doggy ER.

The weather

Fortunately for us, we don’t have to huddle into our homes for a white Christmas; we are out and about enjoying the long summer days. However, sometimes these lovely summer days can turn into festering hot weeks and we need to keep in mind that our pooches are also feeling the heat. Unlike us, they can’t switch on the AC to cool off.According to RSPCA NSWs Chief Vet, Dr Magdoline Awad, the heat can be a major factor in why our loveable mates end up at the vet. Heatstroke is very common, and in warmer weather it is important to never leave your dog in a car. It can take only six minutes for a dog to die due to the heat, she warns.Dr Graham Swinney from the University of Sydney Veterinary Hospital says, Some dogs with short noses, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, are more prone to heat stress and can get it at more moderate temperatures.To prevent your dog from getting heatstroke, you can take the following preventative actions:Always provide shade for your pooch when left outdoors.Always make sure your dog has a bowl of water (if left outdoors, make sure it is plastic, as metal warms the water).Never leave your dog alone in the car, even with the window cracked open.

The Chrissy treats

Overeating and drinking can often be our Christmas tradition, but it seems some dog owners like to include their canine companions in the feasting. Christmas food ham, turkey or the typical barbecue is often fatty and, if fed to pets, can cause pancreatitis. This nasty condition causes symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, lethargy and a decreased appetite. If you think your dog has gotten into the Christmas meal and is suffering from pancreatitis, it is important to get to the vet for appropriate treatment.

Giving your pooch Christmas goodies can also lead to a bone or foreign body stuck in either its oesophagus or intestines. This can happen if dogs are given cooked bones, which can splinter and get lodged internally. This causes major discomfort and may even get infected if left untreated. The sooner you see a vet, the better.

A major no-no, which is common during the Christmas break, is feeding your pooch chocolate. Most dog lovers know not to feed their dog choccies, but our sneaky little friends can sometimes get into our treats when were not looking. During Christmas time, we will see up to six cases of this a day, Awad says. The chocolate Christmas tree ornament is a reoccurring offender, as it is somewhat easy to reach. Because chocolates are also a favourite to give as presents, dogs also sometimes try and sneak into them. The best way to avoid your dog from getting chocolate poisoning is to keep all chocolate in cupboards they can’t reach.

Alcohol can also play a big part in a lot of human Christmas celebrations, but it can cause serious intoxication in pets. Every year hundreds of dogs die after a single bout of alcohol consumption. Preventing this is simple: keep drinks out of reach of pets; don’t leave your plastic cups and cans on the floor, as dogs are often attracted by the sweet taste of drinks; and make sure to clean up the mess after holiday parties.

During the summer months, the weather is perfect for you to be out and about with your canine. However, make sure that while you are walking your dog it is always on a leash. Dogs can get spooked by the smallest thing and run into the road. Its important to always have your dog on a leash unless at an off-leash park to prevent it from being hit by a car, Awad explains.

Puppies as presents

The RSPCA sees a large number of surrendered pets post-Christmas due to many people giving puppies as Christmas presents and the owners not being able to care for them. The responsible thing to do is not to give animals as gifts as they are not toys, but living creatures that cost money and need love and care.
A risk that not many take into account when purchasing puppies during the Christmas period is that puppies that aren’t bought from registered breeders or pet stores can sometimes be unvaccinated animals, which leaves them vulnerable to infections and viruses.

Parvovirus is common in unvaccinated pups and is highly contagious.
Symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and lethargy. If left untreated, a puppy with the condition could die. A way to prevent this is to always make sure your dogs are vaccinated. Most puppies purchased from breeders and pet shops are microchipped and vaccinated, but always make sure, says Awad.


Fireworks are not a favourite noise for most dogs. If you know your dog is afraid of them, make sure if you are going out that the dog feels safe and secure in the home before leaving, as dogs often panic and escape. We pick up lots of stray dogs around Christmas and New Year, says Awad. This is because people haven’t secured their homes so their pets don’t run away, or their pets have run away while they’ve left the door open during a house party.
If you cannot avoid going out and your pooch is afraid of fireworks, there are some things you can do to ensure it feels safer and more relaxed:

  • Take your dog for a long walk before the fireworks so its too tired to get worked up.
  • Put your pooch in a safe place like the laundry rather than the backyard, so it wont run away or wreak havoc in your home.Leave the TV or radio on so your pet has background noise as a distraction.
  • Give your dog a hiding place, like under a table, where it will feel safe.
  • Make sure your pooch has toys to play with.

Another problem strays or runaways face is dog bites. While some injuries from a dog bite can be minor, others can be quite catastrophic. A dog bite could penetrate internal organs, cause internal bleeding or cause infection. If left untreated, this can kill.


  • Christmas trees are beautiful, but to the ever-curious dog they can also be dangerous. Remember to secure the tree so that it doesn’t tip over.
  • Hang non-breakable ornaments near the bottom or within reach of your pooch. Avoid tinsel as, if ingested, it can twist in your dogs intestines and be deadly. It can also be dangerous if a dog plays with it and accidentally gets caught in it, causing strangulation.
  • Keep electrical wires and batteries out of your dogs reach. Chewing or biting anything electrical can cause shock or burns.
  • Don’t leave lit candles unattended they can be knocked over by a swinging tail and burn your dog or cause a fire.
  • Tips for those living in rural and coastal areas


Rural and outback Australia: To avoid an injured pooch in the warmer months if you live in rural Australia, here are some tips:
If you drive a ute, make sure there is something comfortable for your pet to sit on so it isn’t burnt by the hot metal tray. Snake bites are more common in rural areas, especially during the warmer months, when snakes are more active. The two most dangerous to look out for are the brown snake and the tiger snake. If you suspect a snake has bitten your dog, rush it to the vet.

Coastal Australia: The most common problems in the warmer months in coastal towns are ticks, fleas and skin-related problems. Here are some tips:
Ticks and fleas are notorious during summer in coastal areas due to the heat and humidity. The paralysis tick, if left untreated, can completely paralyse a dog in a matter of days. Prevention is always better than treatment, and the RSPCA recommends checking your pets daily and using tick and flea control treatments. If you are taking your pooch to the beach, make sure it is dog-friendly.

Here are just a few things that can make life with your dog a bit easier - see them now on our DOGSLife Directory

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