The end of the year is near and if you want to be sure your pet does not face their final curtain then here is my way of keeping them safe!

Dogs have about 60 million smell receptors compared to our 3 million as their owners. This means that wrapping up boxes of chocolates and putting them under the tree or leaving advent calendars at dog level does not stop them knowing and getting to the chocolate.

Chocolate, especially dark chocolate is toxic to dogs. The active ingredient, theobromine causes their hearts to race and they become hyperactive and can seizure and die.

Interestingly raisins can also be fatal to dogs. I vividly remember the smell of our prep room once we have caused one of our patients to vomit after she had stolen a stollen, six mince pies and a whole Christmas pud. She made a full recovery but if her owners had not presented her immediately for treatment things could have been different.

As well as edible hazards there are plants which can make your pet poorly. Poinsettia, the red leafed plant that so many of us use to decorate our home with at Christmas is poisonous if your dog nibbles its leaves.

Lilies are extremely poisonous to cats and even if you don't think your cat eats the petals or leaves they can still be affected. They can jump up next to the vase and brush past the bunch, lily pollen will fall on their coat. Cats are extremely good at keeping themselves smart and will groom regularly. This means they will ingest the pollen. Any part of the lily, pollen, leaves or petals will lead to irreversible kidney failure. Play it safe and pick a bunch of roses.

If your pet ever eats anything that could be toxic or you have the slightest concern about something they have eaten, call your vet immediately.

As the days grow shorter, scary people can randomly ring on our doorbells. They can be ghouls or witches and are often quite noisy and excitable. Although we understand the concept of trick or treat in Britain, for some of our pets this can be very unnerving. The most terrifying thing for many millions of our dogs and cats at this time of year is of course the whiz and bang of fireworks. We see so many dogs at my surgery that have serious firework phobia. This is a sheer unadulterated terror of the noise, which seems to go on for at least two weeks nowadays.

There are lots of things we as vets can do to help your dogs and cats, so do ask us. Many people think this is just something their dogs need to endure over November and the New Year, but there is help available. Start by being sure you have taken your dog out for its last walk before dusk so it is comfortable. Draw the curtains early and play some music with a good loud back beat or get the telly on and pick a channel with something lively showing. If your dog is scared they will often try and mitigate the terror by hiding, at least this allows them some control over the situation. Help them by embellishing wherever they try to hide by making a lovely den there. Add a duvet and cover the area if that is possible.

There are lots of things you can pick up from the vets to help. Adaptil dog collars will release a pheromone that will help to calm your dog and these last for a whole month once you have put them on. There are also various calming supplements and stronger sedative which are very similar to valium if your dog is experiencing more severe symptoms. Please ask, it is much better to try and halt the problem early than to let it progress to a full noise phobia. Ask for help now, try not leave it until the last minute and then you will be fully prepared.

Rabbit and guinea pigs are also so vulnerable, be sure you have taken the cage into a garage or at least covered it to insulate them from some of the noise. Give them loads of fresh bedding to burrow in to comfort them.

Warmest wishes to you and your pets for a happy and safe winter. Enjoy those gorgeous bright winter walks with your dog as you tramp through the leaves in your wellies and snuggle up with your cat on the sofa.


Katy Horton BVet Med MRCVS, Vets on White Hart Lane, Barnes