Summer’s here! The year’s drawing to an end, and our focus is turning to Christmas... the celebrations, the holidays, the time spent with our near-and-dear and of course the shopping! Preparation for Christmas can last for weeks; there are decorations to hang, cards to write, and detailed plans to make, and that meticulous yuletide planning also needs to include our very special family members - our pets. Let’s take a look at six important considerations for your Christmas planning checklist:
1. Need to board your pet?
When travelling at Christmas taking pets with us isn’t always an option, and even when it is, it requires thorough planning and often presents its own challenges. Enlisting the help of friends and family is a common option, but it’s not always the best outcome for kind-hearted minders, or pets. Many pet owners therefore need boarding facilities, and they can provide a range of benefits. Most offer full-time supervision by experienced and capable carers, and it is often the most reliable, safe, and secure option for people requiring pet care.
The choice of a boarding facility can be a confusing and unsettling process, however the main factors in any choice are to provide your pet a safe and happy experience while being boarded, and to enable you to have peace of mind. Most boarded pets are dogs and cats, however some kennels also offer boarding for birds, reptiles, exotics, and horses.
The best ways to find reliable boarding are to check with friends, family and neighbours to learn from their experiences or your vet for a recommendation. If you have a facility in mind, ask them for references. Also look online for reviews made by others, such as on Facebook and Google etc. In your evaluation, you may want to make an appointment to visit the boarding facility to assess things such as design, exercise areas, cleanliness, temperature control, separation and safety of animals, and to ask them about their daily routines.
Boarding facilities should require your pets to have up-to-date flea and worming treatments and vaccinations. If your pet is not up to date with vaccinations ensure you get them up to date at least four weeks before they are due to be boarded. It is always wise to ask about their standards as protocols may vary amongst establishments to enure your pet complies.
Be sure to check availability as early as possible. Vacancies for peak times like Christmas fill quickly. Also, developing a relationship with a boarding facility will make things easier for you and your pet now and in the future.
2. Preparing for travel with pets
If your furry family member will be joining you when you travel this Christmas, there are some things to consider to ensure their journey is safe and enjoyable too. Dogs are often well-adjusted and willing travel companions, but standard precautions are necessary to ensure that your pooch has a safe and trouble-free holiday. Firstly, dogs should not be free to move about the car. Ideally, they should be placed in a roomy carrier that provides enough space for them to stand and turn around.
This isn’t always practical however, and some dogs are either too big or the carriers won’t fit in vehicles. In these cases, a harness that attaches to a seatbelt is an option which will help to secure the dog in case of heaving braking or other sudden movements. Ensure that any harness is designed specifically for this purpose. Cats, on the other hand, should alwaystravel in carriers.
Another important point is that no part of a dog should be out of a vehicle including their head. While dogs might like the sensation of the wind in their faces, high-speed wind is dangerous for their delicate ears and eyes. Among other reasons, including exposure to weather, this is why dogs should also not travel in the back of open vehicles such as utility vehicles.
Things to bring on a trip with you include leads, collars and identification tags. It’s important that you pack plenty of water, their normal food, and bowls. Bedding and blankets will be helpful in making them comfortable on their journey as well as at their destination. Don’t forget toilet bags for dogs, litter, litter trays and scoops for cats. It’s also a good idea to pack some old towels or cloths to wipe pets down if they get wet or dirty.
Plan for frequent stops along the way. Dogs will need to stretch their legs, get some fresh air and go to the toilet. They won’t have the tolerance for long journeys the way we do, without stops.
Travelling with cats and other animals can be more challenging and stressful for the animals. Whilst it’s possible to take other animals on vacation with you, there are often fewer options for keeping them safe and secure at the destination than there are with dogs.
In most cases, cats are best left in the care of someone in their home or in boarding.
3. Microchipping for fast and accurate identification
Christmas is a busy time of the year, and that means it can be easier to take your eye off your pet. Some pets might take the opportunity to go adventuring, and others may become distressed by all the noise and activity - as well as the presence of strangers - and consequently try to escape. New Year’s Eve creates additional risk, due to the noise of fireworks which pets can find terrifying. The increased risk of pets becoming lost at this time of year makes the need for effective identification essential.
Microchips are an effective way for pets to be reunited with their owners if lost, and vets and shelters routinely examine strays for microchips. They are a permanent ID and last the life of the pet. They are read by passing a scanner over the animal that reads the microchip’s unique code. Collars and identification tags are a simple and straightforward way to add identification to your pet and most can be trained successfully to wear them, but some animals resist them and they can come off.
The key to success with microchipping is to ensure that your information is up-to-date in the recovery program database, so that vets and shelters can reunite you with your pet. A microchip without current contact information is virtually useless. There are a number of registers that record this information and most will provide an option for you to make changes online. The National Pet Register is Australia's largest not-for-profit pet identification and recovery service. It accepts microchip registrations from veterinary clinics, animal welfare organisations and pet shops: http://www.petregister.net/forms/change-address/form.html. Another option, the Pet Address search engine, allows you to search for the microchip number of a pet in various animal databases: www.petaddress.com.au.
There is no more straightforward and reliable way to ensure that your pet can be identified and linked to you than via microchipping. Puppies and kittens can safely be microchipped from six weeks of age.
As of the 1st of July 2018 within South Australia, it will be compulsory for all cats and dogs to be microchipped. For the moment Vets4Pets are still offering half price microchips at $26 which can be safely and easily done at any of our branches.
4. Grooming for comfort and good health
Grooming is sometimes thought of as an exercise in aesthetics, but it’s actually a basic health care routine for dogs, and it’s particularly important in the heat of summer. Think of what it would be like on a hot Christmas Day to be wearing an extra layer of clothing, constantly have hair in your eyes, and have matted hair that pulls at your scalp. This is what it can feel like for your dog, and remember that they’re covered in hair, not just on their heads. Grooming is necessary for their comfort as well as their health.
One of the main advantages of grooming is that it provides the opportunity to spot health problems before they become serious. Fleas, ticks and mites thrive on dirty and ungroomed bodies, and they can cause serious illness. Regular grooming can result in early detection of parasites, as well as issues with ears, eyes and teeth. Grooming helps to maintain a healthy coat and skin, and properly brushed, healthy coats shed less.
Nail trimming avoids overgrown nails which can be very painful, and long nails growing into paw pads can cause cuts and infection. Regular nail trimming helps to reinforce healthy foot structure and posture. Another opportunity created by grooming, is the potential detection of grass seeds, which are notorious for easily penetrating the skin of animals and burrowing into the body. They can lead to abscesses and severe infection and they usually require removal, as they generally don’t break down.
Who doesn’t like being pampered? Grooming relaxes dogs who are used to it, and if you’re doing it yourself it can become a special time for you to share. It helps build the bond between you and it benefits the pet owner as well as the pet. Forget the images of dogs under dryers with magazines and painted nails. Grooming is a basic health care routine for dogs, and much of it pet owners can do themselves.
5. Keeping pets safe in hot weather
Christmas means lots of fun and activity and it often means more time outdoors including for our pets. It can be helpful for us in working off some of those extra kilos gained over Christmas, but it can increase the risks of heat exhaustion in our pets.
The thick fur coats of dogs and cats, can make it more difficult for them to control their temperatures in the heat of summer, therefore it’s important to be wary of the signs that your pet could be suffering. One of the most obvious signs is that dogs will pant more heavily as this is the only way they try to manage their temperature. Unlike us humans who have sweat glands across most of our skin, cats and dogs only have sweat glands between their toes. The risk of being unable to reduce their temperatures adequately is heat stroke and the effects can be devastating and some instances fatal. Other signs that your pet could be suffering are drooling, laboured breathing and an increased heart rate. Severe symptoms include vomiting, seizures and diarrhoea.
Dog breeds that have a higher susceptibility to over heating and respiratory issues are short nosed breeds such as pugs, French bull dogs, English bull dog etc.
If you think your pet is suffering from heat stroke, the most important thing you can do is to start cooling them down even before you bring them to the vet. Cool water (not cold!) may be poured over the head, stomach, armpits and feet, or cool cloths may be applied to these areas
You may notice your pet attempting to manage their temperature by laying on a cool tiled floor, or in the shade. It’s important to be aware of these signs that they’re feeling the heat, and avoid activities that may contribute to their discomfort. Outdoor time will be better in the early morning or in the evening after the sun has set. It will be easier for them to breathe, and the ground will be cooler on their paws.
Sometimes it’s best to leave pets at home when going out on hot days in spite of how much they may want to join you. They can become distressed quite quickly if left outdoors in the heat. Leaving them at home, protected from the heat, might be the most sensible approach. Regardless of whether they remain at home or come with you they’ll need plenty of fresh, clean water to prevent dehydration.
Most importantly, remember to never leave an animal in car, even for a short time. Temperatures inside can increase rapidly and cause heatstroke quickly, and potential death.
Some sensible and thoughtful preparation for our beloved furry family members, and an ever-watchful eye, will help to make sure their Christmas is happy and safe. We want them with us over the holidays, and they want to be with us too, but it’s important to know when it’s better for them to remain in the comfort and safety of their home. They’ll be aware of the changes to routine, but they don’t actually understand the significance of Christmas itself, therefore maintaining comfortable and familiar routines as much as possible is the best approach for our pets over the silly season.