Who doesn’t love Christmas?! A time of fun, laughter and over-indulgence. We get to share more quality time with the ones we love as well as enjoy some relief from the daily grind!
It’s no wonder we all love Christmas!
But please remember, if you are a pet owner, keep in mind that this holiday season also represents new, different and enticing dangers to your beloved family pet; both inside and outside your home. Keep reading to learn how to keep your pet not only safe, but healthy during this festive season.
- At the top of the list is Chocolate and Mince Pies. Human chocolate and raisins are highly toxic to your dog; they can cause liver damage – and even failure – if ingested in large amounts. So make sure your child or guest hasn’t left that tempting box of chocolates lying around. Keep those tasty treats well out of nose and mouth reach of your pooch! Remember: dogs investigate and learn by smell and then by tasting or eating. Protect your beloved animal from the temptation of new and interesting holiday smells! Invited friends over to celebrate? Pop your dog into a quiet room with a nice tasty (and healthy) treat of his own and let him enjoy the peace and quiet in this busy season. (Onions, rising bread dough, fruit cake, macadamia nuts and nutmeg are other traditional Christmas foods that can hurt your beloved four-legged family member.)
- Alcohol. Yes, this might seem like an obvious danger; but did you know that 1 in 4 vets treat drunk dogs over the festive season?! So ask your visitors to keep their drinks on tables or counters and not on the floor by their feet. Put all empty drinks containers in a solid bin, rather than just a bin bag that’s no match for an inquisitive dog. Remember, your dog’s liver and kidneys can be affected by any amount of alcohol.
- Anti-freeze and road grit. These items are highly toxic to our pets. When you return from a walk where roads or pathways have been treated for snow and ice, make sure to thoroughly wash off your dog’s paws, legs and bellies rather than let him lick them clean himself. The chemical agents in these treatments are meant to keep roads and the water in your car’s cooling system from freezing, but these chemicals will kill your pet within hours if ingested. Keep all anti-freeze (typically blue, but may come in other colors too) out of reach of children and animals in your garage and clean up any and all leaks of anti-freeze on the garage floor.
- Christmas Plants: Holly (leaves and berries) Mistletoe and Poinsettia. While beautiful for the holiday, if even pieces of these plants are ingested by your pet, they can cause vomiting, stomach upset and blisters in the mouth … in mild cases. In extreme cases, eating these berries or plants can be fatal to your pet. So always keep these plants up high and away from your pet and make sure to remove any loose berries that may dry out and break off. If you have cats in your home, be mindful of their climbing abilities and purposely keep these plants out of their climbing range. Regular or liquid potpourri can also pose health risks to your pet.
- Your Christmas Tree. If you’re putting up a real tree in your home, make sure your dog doesn’t try to pee on it, especially with electrical wires and lights around! Pine needles can also pose a danger to inquisitive noses and mouths and end up in soft paw pads; so make sure to keep vacuuming these up on a daily basis or you may find yourself making an unscheduled trip to your vet. Never let your dog drink any treated Christmas tree water!
- Decorations: Glass Baubles, Garland and Blinking lights. Shiny, colourful and eye-catching; these enticing items can be easily mistaken for toys by your dog and could be dangerous if swallowed. So spend some time letting your dog know that the tree – and everything on or under it – is out-of-bounds by saying “No” and then using a distraction technique to get Fido to find something else more interesting – like you or a real toy! Use a timeout if your dog continues to go back again and again to the tree. (Remember, when using the timeout technique, do not speak or look at your dog; so your dog does not receive any reward for his unacceptable behaviour.)
- Food. Leftovers are always a sign of a plentiful Christmas; but immediately double-bag and bin ANY cooked bones as these are highly dangerous. Cooked bones become brittle and porous and can quickly disintegrate into razor-sharp edges getting stuck in your dog’s mouth, throat or intestines, even perforating their insides! If you wish to give your dog a nice juicy bone, please feed it raw with some nice meat still on it which will keep him busy for hours. ALL bones for chewing MUST be bigger than your dog’s mouth; or better yet, at least the size of your dog’s head, to avoid the chance of choking on smaller bones. Don’t overload your dog’s bowl with lots of rich, salty food. Dog’s stomachs cannot properly digest too much fatty, rich or salty food. Instead, freeze some Xmas treats in small amounts and let your dog enjoy some holiday tastes well into the New Year!
- Toys. Make sure all small toys, or pieces of toys, that can be easily chewed or swallowed are kept away from small children as well as your pets to protect them from choking. Keep an eye on those tiny surprises that come out of the Christmas cracker boxes, etc. If you are getting your pet a present this holiday season, please make sure it is made of hard rubber – rather than plastic, which can be quickly chewed and swallowed. For example, Kongs make a great indestructible pressie! Stuff with some leftovers and then freeze to keep your dog busy for a few hours while you’re relaxing and watching your Xmas movies! (Reminder: no toy is truly indestructible, especially with larger dogs and enthusiastic chewers. Always keep an eye on your dog with any toy.)
- Ribbons, String and Tinsel. While wrapping your presents or trimming the tree, make sure your pet isn’t trying to eat your wrappings or tinsel like spaghetti! Long pieces of these materials are indigestible and can cause intestinal distress and vomiting or even worse, get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract and have to be surgically removed by your vet.
- Candles. We all love the soft glow of candles at this time of year. But again, be aware of your pet’s never-ending curiosity; they don’t necessarily know that a naked flame can cause them harm. Make sure candles are in firm holders or behind glass and are high enough that your dog or cat can’t knock it over.
After all that being said,
I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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If you have only started to feed some healthy, uncooked food to your dog or cat but are still unsure, here are some top tips to help you and your pet carnivore make the transition a stress free one.
- Weaning onto a natural raw diet is usually the easiest way to do things. I find minced or ground meat and bone perfect for this as it gets your pet used to the smell and texture first. It also helps your pets stomach acid become stronger over a number of days, preparing it for when they become full time carnivores. Feeding your minced or chunked meat in a separate meal from the processed stuff also helps your dog process and absorb the new food more easily. A lot of dogs naturally will wean themselves onto a natural diet this way and start to refuse to eat dry kibble through this process.
- Texture can be a strange phenomena to some dogs. Bigger pieces of meat on bone can sometimes be daunting and tackling this new food source is a big learning curve. The big tip is don’t put pressure on your dog by standing over them, watching them like a hawk. Let them take their own time to work it out, ultimately they will. I’ve found some dogs, like my own terrier, Bracken don’t like her teeth to sink into bigger pieces of meat like chicken thighs, I get over this by feeding her chicken either frozen or partly thawed for an hour before I give it to her. She eats this without a problem and with gusto!
- Veg and supplements, there are always debates on any forum you read about whether to feed veg or to supplement certain vitamins. My big tip here is to do your research. Read as much as you can from the leading books and feed what you feel comfortable with. If you or your dog were to eat the same food day in and day out, 365 days a year then of course you would only be getting a limited amount of vitamins and minerals. Having a varied diet gives you and your dog a balanced diet. If you decide to feed veg then they should only make up no more than 25% of their food ration.
- Fats for canines are of high importance, they provide extra calories, they are necessary for fat soluble vitamins, they help satiate the appetite and they are an excellent source of fatty acids. If your dog needs to lose weight don’t limit the amount of fat they eat, just reduce the amount of food they eat per day. Then your dog will still be getting all their essential elements for healthy weight loss or gain.
- Feed ‘Meaty Bones’ as often as possible. These act as natural tooth brushes for your pets mouth. Chewing and gnawing on muscle, sinew and bone massage gums, keeping blood supply healthy. It acts like dental floss, removing any bacteria build up between teeth and gums and of course all that chewing releases those essential Endorphins, those ‘feel good’ hormones which help to make your dog feel happy and content.
Please feel free to browse the archive posts on the right as there are many articles about raw feeding, myths and further tips to help you get the most out of feeding a natural diet.
I would love to hear from you if you found this article useful or you have any questions you would like me to answer, please comment below.
Bernie The Dog Owners Coach
We all love our pets, big or small, hairy or hair-less and we all want to do our best to keep them healthy, happy and content. So here’s some Pet Smart tips to help improve your dog or cat or ferret’s life, starting with food.
I’ve put together some do’s and don’ts which will make you a more savvy pet owner and hopefully help you save some money as well as helping to improve your pet’s health!
- Do check your pet food packaging; Check that the main or top ingredient is Meat, chicken or turkey are cheap so there could be a high percentage of actual meat in your pet’s food at least 50%. Don’t think that meat meal or animal by products is the same thing because it isn’t, animal by-products can include, heads, beaks, feet and viscera – nothing too nutritious in those things as a whole. If your top ingredient isn’t meat but a cereal like wheat, maize, corn etc, then you are wasting your money because your pet is probably quite literally, getting rid of it as quickly as you feed it. Cereals are called fillers or ‘fibre’ but your dog or cat can’t digest these cereals and therefore it will come out in nearly the same amounts it went in. Go for a good quality, high meat content and you will probably have to feed less in the long run, saving you money.
- the 2nd part of checking you pet’s food packaging if you feed a commercial brand is to check that there are no added preservatives, colourings or other additives. (This includes commercial dog treats and chews too) So check there are no E numbers, sugars or something called Ethoxyquin – this is a stabilizer which stops fats from becoming rancid, giving them a longer shelf life. It is also a stabilizer for rubber in car tyres! A healthy diet does not contain any of these things in large quantities or eaten at every meal or obviously there will soon be signs that your dog or cat isn’t coping with the large amounts of chemicals and sugars in its diet, obesity, like in humans is never a good sign. Neither is a thin animal that wont put weight on.
- Give your pet Real Food as often as you can. Even table scraps and leftovers, over ripe fruit and vegetables will add much-needed vitamins, minerals and natural enzymes to your pet’s diet that a dry kibble or tinned food may be lacking. *Remember, uncooked foods don’t lose nutrients like cooked foods do, so if you aren’t up to switching to a raw, whole food diet just yet, try just quickly sealing meat, liver or fish in a pan before adding it to your pet’s food- They’ll love you even more for it!
- Do you filter your own tap water? What about your pet’s? Have you ever wondered why they prefer to drink out of a dirty puddle than their bowl? There are many chemicals added to our tap water to make it safe to drink but some waters (depending on geographical terrain) can contain high natural chemicals like Calcium or Lead as well as added Flouride; our pets naturally know that some water tastes better than others and will use their preference. So if you already filter your own water or use bottled water, why not top up their bowl too. Or you can place a bucket outside to collect rain water for your pet if you don’t.
- Lastly, Do give your dog a big, fresh, raw meaty bone at least once a week– more often if you can afford it.You’re local butcher or market can be a great source. It will help your dog clean his teeth and gums, satisfy his chewing and gnawing needs and he’ll look so happy when you give him one that you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this before! (Do make sure bones of any kind are larger than your dog’s mouth if not as big as their head,so they have to chew ). Scrap all those processed treats and chews- this will be much healthier for their whole body, not just their teeth- no more dental trips to the vets!
- Don’t feed the following foods to your pets as they are toxic and others can be harmful
Chocolate, Grapes, Raisins, Onions or Avocados
Excessive starchy foods like bread and potato’s can cause Bloat in large amounts
Small pieces of bone or cooked bones can splinter and can cause choking or get stuck
Fruit pits and corn cobs can get stuck in the bowel
- Don’t feed cow’s milk to your pets, it is high in fats and natural growth hormones. Most dog’s and cats have a lactose intolerance and cannot digest any nutrients in milk, therefore you are feeding a high calorie, low nutrient liquid which has no benefit to your pet – not to mention the milk sludge which will coat their teeth. Stick to water!
- Don’t worry about adding new foods to your pet’s diet. Doing your research and reading books and surfing the internet could help you learn and know more about pet nutrition than some vets!
Ask – ask other people you know what they feed, what they have tried and don’t be put off by scare-mongers. Join groups or forums online who are set up to help and support newcomers and give them advice and support.
Not feeling that you are on your own is a big part of starting any new journey of any kind. We’ve all been there and we all want the best for our pets!
Some Books and resources to get you started
Books- The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein (D.V.M.)
Work Wonders by Tom Lonsdale (Australian DVM)
Barf & Raw Feeders N.Ireland– Facebook group for new and experienced pet owners
Or you can visit my own website where you can download an introduction to raw feeding your pet
www.4dogenterprises.com/food or email me email@example.com
I hope you found this content of value and look forward to you lovely comments. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive free updates from my blog or sign up to my newsletter on my website!
Bernie- The Dog Owners Coach
‘ Dogs and cats suffering with peridontal disease frequently develop signs of heart, lung and joint disease. Once the peridontal disease is treated the joint stiffness and general activity levels of the patient frequently improves.’ Tom Lonsdale from his book Raw Meaty Bones
I know some people’s stomach might be doing flip flops with the thought of feeding raw meat, or they have heard stories about dogs who have choked on bones. Fact 1 bones only splinter when they are cooked, they become hollow and their density changes, raw bones wrapped in meat, e.g. a chicken leg or even a whole chicken is safe to feed. For those who are squeemish, I know quite a few vegetarians who feed their dogs a natural diet, me included. Fact 2, as long as you follow good hygiene standards preparing your pets food and after preparation then there shouldn’t be any problems with bacteria etc than when preparing your own food. Carnivores stomach acid is so strong that it turns bone into powder so dont worry about bacteria, their digestive systems can handle it.
Here is some additives in processed pet foods you may not know about; anticaking agents, lubricants,nonnutritive sweetners,colouring agents,flavour enhancers,emulsifiers,stabilisers,flavouring agents,flour treating agents,texturisers, PH control agents …… and the list goes on. These are things any digestive system (human or animal) should not be dealing with on a daily basis without ill effect.
How do these additives and chemicals effect an animals system?
Some animals may seem ok but may have dull coats, stiff gait, lost their sparkle, reduced appetite or drink excessive amounts of water. There can be behavioural or neurological abnormalities, hyper-activity, listlessness or sleeping a lot or even agitation and aggression. Some animals might be prone to gastro-intestinal disorders leading to soft stools or diarrhoea, vomiting or Bloat. These animals will also be prone to skin disease, liver disease, cancer, hyperthyroidism and an over worked Immune System (Vet Tom Lonsdale- Raw Meaty Bones)
What’s in a Natural Diet?
Well, mainly meat and bone, cartilage, fat and skin. Most people feed their pets human grade food because it is reared to meet the highest food standards so there is a limit to chemicals and drugs allowed if an animal is to go into the food chain. If you want to feed organic you can, if you want to feed some veg or fruit, you can so everything you feed your dog you can see and probably know where it comes from nowadays with traceability.
There are so many raw pet food companies out there now that buying, storing and feeding a natural diet is as easy and convenient as any other pet food. Most of it comes frozen, which means it will keep for a longer period until you are ready to use it without the use of preservatives and other chemicals. You can feed large pieces of food frozen, this keeps your dog occupied for longer, they have to chew more (releasing endorphins -the happy hormone,in the process) and keeps smells down to the bare minimum.
Most people I have spoken to who have changed over to a natural diet was because their pet was showing clinical signs of ill health or were generally not in good condition in their body or coat even though otherwise they seemed healthy. I have yet to meet anyone feeding this diet who says they would go back to a commercial pet food and everyone I have spoken to who has converted to this diet has said they now only need to go to the vets for an annual check up, vaccination booster or neutering as they now have fit, healthy pets.
Even if you are still not convinced, I’m going to ask you to try an experiment. For one month, try feeding your pet dog or cat on a natural raw diet. If you dont like it or you see no difference in your pets coat, demeanor, teeth condition and what comes out the other end then go back to your regular pet food brand, what have you got to loose?
You can find more info on introducing your pet to a natural diet on my Website
I Highly recommend you read Raw Meaty Bones and Work Wonders by vet Tom Lonsdale, available online or at good book shops.
Please leave me a comment if you think this article was helpful. Thank You
If you have never heard about the BARF or Raw Diet Revolution, I advise start doing your research. It is one of the quickest growing trends in feeding your dog and cat, here in the UK & Ireland, the USA and Australia and there is a very good reason why so many people are changing over.
What is B.A.R.F?
Barf stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, basically, food that is appropriate for the species you are feeding; grass or veg for herbivores, meat for carnivores and a mixture for omnivores. Just like most zoo’s feed their animals foods which are as close to what they would eat in the wild, then our domestic pets should be fed with the same mindset.
What is wrong with commercial pet foods?
Not only is a lot of commercial dog and cat foods highly processed, cooked, ground, pulped and reconstituted into pellets or kibble. Any goodness that originally was in the basic ingredients have been cooked out so the manufacturers have to add synthetic vitamins and minerals back in. Ok, that’s fair enough if it was just meat and bone and maybe some veg as the basic ingredients, but what if there was not only culled animals, not necessarily slaughtered but could have been sick, euthanised, treated with a plethora of drugs before it died? It isn’t unheard of as most ‘animal derivatives‘ can come from what is called a rendering plant, where carcasses of any and many animals are boiled down together and sold on to manufacturers, not only in the pet food industry.
Food standards for pet foods are very vague and other ingredients can be added from other manufacturing processes. Do you know what it means by Animal By- Products on your pets food labels? No, neither did I but I have researched it a lot and some of the things which can go in is pretty disgusting never mind having no nutritional value to your pet. There are plenty of articles about it in newspapers and online recently to keep you reading for hours! Try this one from the Born Free Organisation
Look at your pet food label and just see what the top ingredient is, if it is meat, then good on you, you have at least chosen a manufacturer that is trying to make a nutritional pet food. If your top ingedient is wheat, maize, corn or some other type of grain, these are called fillers. Not because they fill your dog up but because they plump or bulk out the food. Grains are not a natural part of your carnivores diet and their digestive systems do not contain the correct enzymes to break down these grains, that is why most of what you are feeding, if you were to weigh what comes out the other end, comes back out again because their bodies cannot digest and assimilate these types of ingredients.
Dog Breath, smelling ‘doggy’ and other hints on your pets health
I have 4 dogs and not one of them smell like a dog the way I used to think of a bad doggy smell. I know that sounds funny but growing up around dogs all my life, our dogs were fed an artificial or commercial diet and they all had dog breath and they all had a certain ‘smell’ about them which I just associated as a ‘dog smell’. Now that I know better it was the smell of what a commercial food was doing to their bodies. I used to age dogs by how much plaque was on their teeth, the more plaque, the older the dog or if they were missing teeth, usually a sign of a dog getting on. Obviously overall health and condition played a part in guessing a dogs age too. All of these things I now know was my experience of aging a commercially fed animal.
I always get people commenting on Solo, my 17 year old whippet/ collie cross, his shiny coat his bright eyes and how spritely he is, they get a shock when I tell them his age and most people comment that he looks half that age. Now just think about that. He isn’t a young looking dog anymore and he’s grey around the chin and just a little stiff around the hind end but otherwise healthy & happy and people think he is 8 or 9! Have we accustomed ourselves to the fact that our dogs and cats should start looking old and grey before their time?
Good Oral health = Good Over-all Health
Does your dog or cat get regular ‘Dentals’ at the vet or have you been told that your pet might need one soon? Have you been advised to ‘brush’ your dog’s teeth regularly? Like humans, oral health i.e. your teeth and gums, give dentists and doctors an idea of our overall health, this is the same with our pets. Wild dogs, coyotes, wolves, foxes etc dont have someone to clean their teeth every day or a vet to clean them every 6 months, so how do they keep their teeth and mouth healthy? Remember this is their main weapon in order to bring down their prey as well as eating it so keeping this armoury spick and span and healthy is a must for survival in the wild. The answer is just eating their natural prey naturally cleans their teeth and massages their gums and gives them all their nutrtional needs for health and survival.
The ripping, tearing and gnawing which is part of eating meat on the bone cleans a carnivores teeth as they eat, getting rid of bacteria and other debris which might have built up since the last meal. Dogs who eat dried kibble which are high in sugars for palatability and preservation, 1. barely touch the sides of some dogs mouths as they’re eating, therefore not cleaning the mouth of bacteria and 2. these sugars feed the bacteria in the mouth and help them multiply leading to plaque build up and gum disease. (facts and info taken from,Tom Lonsdale- Raw Meaty Bones ISBN :0646396242)
Don’t fall for the Pet Food Conglomerates (such as Colgate-Palmolive, Mars, Del-Monte and Nestle to name a few) and their media machines, they are in it to make money, first and foremost, your pets health comes way down the list, so start doing a little research into your pet food brand, I will tell you now you are going to be shocked with what you find out. Visit My Website for more info on feeding a natural diet if you live in Ireland.
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Next week- Part 2, How feeding a natural diet could save you money and your dog’s life
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on anything in this article that you found helpful or interesting, thank you
From Canine Health Concern’s website: We asked people who had changed their dogs away from pet food and onto raw meaty bones to take part in some research. Our results showed that Natural Food – including raw meaty bones – is Better for Dogs than Processed Pet Food
Eighty-nine dog owners took part in the survey. Seventy-four per cent had changed to the raw meaty bone diet, and 13% were already feeding a similar diet. We were astonished by the results: there was a massive drop of 85% in veterinary visits shown by people whose dogs had ‘gone natural’. The 85% reduction was achieved by those who had been feeding the natural diet for a period of six months or more. Our own records show that, initially, feeding costs of a natural diet increase whilst vet costs decline. After about a year, quantity and feeding costs decline, too, as the dogs’ nutrition rises to optimum levels.
The main visible health benefits reported by owners of the 126 dogs who were changed to the natural diet include . . more energy and activity, improved teeth and gums, glossier coats, and skin, and weight and behavioural improvements. Other benefits included lower susceptibility to fleas, improved appetite, an absence of stomach and digestive upsets, sweeter breath, cleaner ears, no more scratching, and veterinary medication no longer required.
Although dogs who had been on the diet for only a few weeks showed improvements, those on the natural diet for six months or longer were dramatically healthier than those whose diet had only recently changed. And – importantly – guardians were reporting multiple benefits for their dogs.