As the festive season is upon us, plans are being made for family and friends, but how much do we need to think about our canine friends.

Although some dogs can relish and enjoy the excitement of Christmas and all it brings, many dogs do not. Now is the time to consider your dog and how they will cope with the festivities to come. Older or infirm dogs have different needs and considerations. They may have pain, reduced mobility or impaired senses. These can reduce the tolerance for changes and cause distress or anxiety.


  • The decorations are up! and often furniture gets moved around to allow for the tree. Dogs eyesight can deteriorate as they age and they will have a mental map of their some and immediate surroundings. Try to make changes to the outlay of the home minimal and keep the floor as clear as possible so there are less obstacles to navigate


  • Visitors, human and animal. With friends and family traveling to see you they may bring their own pets with them. Your dog may not appreciate this, especially if they are not used to having other pets in the house. Allow space for both pets to get away from each other. Utilise baby gates, crates and breaks from each other. With all the other fuss going on, don’t expect a usually sociable dog to welcome another into it’s home. The extra stress of the season may heighten anxiety and create behaviour changes. A dog that is not used to noise or young children for example may be frightened. Ensure quiet time and try to keep fuss to a minimum – it’s their home too


  • Travelling – if you are the one travelling with your dog, ensure there is a safe, comfortable area for them to reside in the vehicle. A firm memory foam mattress is ideal for the boot, and a non slip surface if they are on the back seat. Lifting in and out of the car can help avoid arthritis flare ups. Ensure there are comfort breaks on long journeys. Familiar bedding from home would also be appreciated


  • All the food! – With the extra food around at Christmas, try not to adapt their diet too much. A few extra’s here and there are to be expected, but foreign foods can often cause tummy upsets which is less than ideal if you are travelling or visiting. Try to stick to the same feeding routine and food best you can. Don’t forget about the Christmas foods that are toxic to dogs. If in doubt…leave it out!


  • Routine routine routine – as dogs age they thrive on a daily routine. You hay have noticed your older dog knows exactly when feeding time is and may put themselves to bed! Their tolerance for change reduces so try to ensure their routine is stuck to as much as possible to reduce distress


  • Exercise – again with their routine, they will be used to a certain amount of exercise. During the holidays this often changes. Dogs that suffer with arthritis need little and often exercise, a big beach walk on Christmas morning may sound romantic but it could be detrimental to your dogs condition. On a cold day also consider a coat to help keep the muscles and joints warm

Christmas should be an enjoyable time for all so while considering all of the above, both human and animal can have a pleasant experience.

Rebecca Wilkinson RVN NCert(AnBeh) ICH

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