Seasonal Dangers to Dogs

Tom is all smiles as he enjoys some fun outdoors

Did you know that the time of year can impact your dog’s health? Indeed, as the seasons change from Spring to Summer, Autumn to Winter, there are a  variety of potential dangers to your dog which can impact both their physical and mental health. In this guide, we look in depth at these potential dangers throughout the seasons, with ways to do all you can to keep your loved dog and family member safe.

Keep Your Dog Safe During Spring Time

Spring is the season of new beginnings. Fresh blossom blooms, animals awaken and the earth seems to come to life again.  But despite all of the enjoyment the season brings, there are some hazards to watch out for, particularly when it comes to our dogs.

Exercise Gradually

If your dog has been less active during the winter, avoid taking them on long walks they are not used to straight away. It’s important to let them build up to more exercise gradually, this might involve adding an extra five minutes onto walks in the first week and doubling it in the following week. By doing it this way, you will help them to develop more muscle and better cardiovascular health and reduce their risk of injury.

Spring Clean with Care

It’s that time of year where we get out the cleaning supplies, dust away the cobwebs and give our home a good seeing to. If you are planning on doing a spring clean, try and opt for eco friendly products, where possible, as often they are non-toxic. Even then, it’s not guaranteed that they won’t harm your dogs, so it is best to keep them in a secure place until you have finished, and all of the cleaning substances are dry. The same applies if you are doing any gardening or DIY, keep any tools safe from dogs, especially puppies. Unfortunately most lawn and garden products can be hazardous. Make sure that plants and fertilizers are kept out of your dog’s reach or not toxic.

The outdoors exposes dogs to the elements. Dogs may need extra brushing and bathing to stay clean and healthy.

Poisonous Plants in Spring

Azalea/Rhododendron: Highly poisonous to dogs, even if just a few leaves are eaten.
Daffodil: All parts of the daffodil are harmful. Dogs sometimes eat the bulbs, but even a small bite can kill a small animal. Even drinking the water in which cut daffodils have stood is potentially hazardous.
Geranium: All parts of geraniums are poisonous to dogs. Also present in summer.
Hyacinth: The bulbs are poisonous to dogs.
Iris and gladioli: All parts of these are toxic, but the bulb is most dangerous as it contains a higher concentration of chemicals.
Ragwort: All parts of this plant are poisonous, and even small doses can be fatal to dogs. Also present in summer and autumn.
Rhubarb: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous to dogs, whether they are cooked or raw. Also present in summer.
Snowdrops:  While all the plant is toxic, usually the bulbs are most toxic to dogs. Also present in winter.
Tulip: The bulbs are the most toxic, however all parts of the plant can be toxic in large quantities.

Alabama Rot

This disease is deadly and sadly the cause is still unknown.  It does seem to be most prevalent in the months December to the end of March, and in certain areas in the UK. Always remain vigilant. If you go for a muddy walk, always wash your dog’s legs and nose when you get home. The telltale signs are wounds especially on limbs which may just look like a sore or cut. Fatal kidney failure can develop in a few days, so if in doubt contact your vet.

Easter Hazards for Your Dog

Some Spring flowers can be toxic to your dog

At Easter we all like to indulge in chocolate. Easter eggs, fondant filled eggs and chocolate nests are all tasty and great fun, but they can be dangerous to dogs. As well as chocolate, there are several other seasonal things that can be harmful to our dogs, including hot cross buns and a number of flowering bulbs and plants.

A number of foods and flowers that are common around Easter can be harmful to your dog.

These include:

Chocolate Easter eggs
Hot cross buns and Easter Simnel cake
Some spring flowers, such as daffodils, tulips and spring crocus
Fatty or salty food from your Easter Sunday roast

Chocolate Easter Eggs are harmful to your dog

Around Easter keep an extra close eye on your dog. Make sure they don’t sneak any of the foods they shouldn’t be eating and remember to keep all dangerous foods and flowers out of our dog’s reach.

If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that they shouldn’t have, speak to your vet immediately.

Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.

Keep Your Dog Safe During Summer Time

Buzz enjoys a nice walk on the beach

The sun is out, we all want to be outdoors enjoying the fresh air with our dogs, relaxing, walking, taking our dogs to the beach or on holiday.  As with every season, summer poses risks to dogs which owners should be aware of. If you are concerned about your dog regarding any of the below, please seek veterinary advice.


You might think that your dog’s fur is enough to protect them from getting sunburn but this is not necessarily the case. Even dogs have areas where their fur is thin enough to allow their skin to become burnt, such as around the nose’s tip or on the belly. Often the solution is as simple as limiting your dog’s time in the sun. If your dog is particularly prone to sunburn, however, specially formulated sunscreen is available for dogs; human sunscreen should not be used as it can be toxic to animals.

Avoid leaving your dog in the car in the summer

Adjusting to Hotter Weather

Dogs, like people, need to acclimate to a change of climate. If you are going on holiday or moving to a more humid, drier or tropical location this summer, initially limit time spent outdoors. Exercise or walk your dog in the coolest hours of the day, early morning and evening, to allow everyone time to adjust to the new environment and weather conditions.

Heat Stroke

You don’t need to leave your dog in a locked car for them to be at risk of heat stroke during the summer. Playing outdoors in the sun on a hot day can be enough. In particular, some dogs such as shorter nosed dogs are at greater risk for heat stoke due to their reduced cooling efficiency. If you see signs that your dog may have heat stroke such as excessive thirst or heavy panting, bring them into the shade or a cool room immediately and use a fan or wet towels to cool them down.  Check out our comprehensive guide Heatstroke in Dogs – How To Keep Dogs Cool for full details of heat stroke.

Never walk your dog on a hot pavement or road surface.  Besides blistering your dog’s paws, the heat rising from hot asphalt or concrete can  cause small dogs to easily overheat. In hot weather exercise your dog on the grass or in shaded areas. When in urban areas, where hot pavement cannot be avoided, you can put canine boots on your dog to protect his paws.  The rule of thumb is if you cannot keep your hand on the hot pavement for 5 seconds, your dog’s feet can’t handle it either.

Dogs need a source of fresh drinking water on hand throughout the day. Select a water bowl that cannot be easily overturned. Larger dogs can drink water from a cooler or trough.  Freeze water in an empty ice cream bucket and add the block of ice to the water container to keep it refreshing during the day.

Insects And Other Animals

From ticks and fleas to bees and wasps, summer is filled with potential hazards to your dog. Flea and tick prevention is key during these months to help your pet avoid the most common pests.  Most insect and animal injuries can be treated at home, but any facial swelling due to a bee sting or a potentially poisonous snake bite should receive immediate veterinary care.  Everything You Need To Know About Puppies

Bacteria or Parasites in Standing Water

Standing pools of water can breed bacteria and parasites that can make your dog very sick if they drink the water or simply walk through it. For example, giardiasis is a disease that affects the intestines and causes upset stomach, diarrhea and dehydration; the parasite responsible can be found in stagnant water during warm months.

Similarly, leptospriosis is an infection caused by bacteria that affects a wide range of animals, including dogs and humans, and can lead to kidney or liver damage or failure. To reduce the chance of these illnesses, avoid standing water whenever possible and refresh your dog’s water bowl frequently.

Poisonous Plants in Summer

Some plants are particularly toxic to your pets

Elder: All parts including elderberries are poisonous for dogs.
Foxglove: Both the leaves and seeds contain a toxin that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, heart problems, fits and collapsing.
Geranium: All parts of geraniums are poisonous to dogs.
Hydrangea: Parts are toxic to dogs as they contain cyanide. Also present in spring and autumn.
Larkspur: Potentially fatal to younger or smaller dogs, though larger pets would need to consume a lot to show signs of poisoning.
Lily of the valley: Lily of the valley flowers and leaves, often used in bouquets, are very poisonous to dogs. They contain a toxin that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, heart problems, fits and collapsing.
Nightshade: Very toxic to dogs.
Oleander: All parts of the plant are toxic. Less than a handful of leaves can be fatal to dogs.
Ragwort: (All parts of this plant are poisonous, and even small doses can be fatal to dogs.
Rhubarb: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous to dogs whether they are cooked or raw.

Grass Seeds

Grass seeds can cause injuries to your dog

Grass seed injuries are a common problem for dogs during summer months. When examined closely, some grass seeds resemble tiny arrowheads which attach themselves easily to an animal’s fur and burrow into the skin. Breeds with hairy ears and hairy feet are more at risk if walked in meadows or woodlands where these grasses commonly grow in abundance.

The two most common areas of a dog affected by grass seeds are the foot and the ear, although other places on your dog’s body can be at risk too.

Grass seeds on the feet

Grass seeds commonly get in between the toes of the dog’s foot, referred to as the interdigital space. Once attached to the surrounding soft feathery fur, the grass seed then makes its way towards the foot itself, easily penetrating the thin skin before starting to burrow deep into – and through – highly sensitive tissues of the foot resulting in extreme pain, discomfort, infection and sudden onset (acute) lameness.

Treatment for grass seeds in the paw:

Your vet may try fishing around through the entry hole with a long, specially designed pair of tweezers called ‘crocodile forceps’. As grass seeds are made from vegetable matter they are invisible on x-ray (unlike bone or metal) so their exact location within the paw is usually a mystery. Sometimes a second hole is detected where the grass seed has already travelled through the entire foot and exited through the other side leaving a narrow empty tunnel, or ‘sinus’, connecting the two.

Grass seeds in the ear

The second most common place for these seeds to cause problems is down the ear canal. Their uni-directional nature and shape allows the grass seed to work its way from the fur around the ears down along the ear canal, and come to rest right up against the delicate ear drum

Treatment for grass seeds in the ear:

If it is the ear that is affected, your vet may examine the ear to confirm the diagnosis and remove the grass seed with tweezers. Your vet may prefer to sedate your dog as they may be in too much pain to allow your vet to examine and safely remove the grass seed.

Common signs of grass seeds affecting your dog include:

Shaking their head
Licking their paws
Looking uncomfortable
Being lethargic
Seeming like they are in pain

If your dog is showing any of these signs, contact your vet immediately.


Like us, our four-legged friends are susceptible to seasonal allergies during the summer. Common symptoms include itchy skin for dogs as well as the increased occurrence of ear infections. These ear infections, which can be serious, are treatable with a prescription ear cleaning solution.  While the solution doesn’t help with the allergies directly, it does help limit ear wax build-up that can make an infection worse.

Beach Safety for Your Dog

Walks along the beach with your dog can be so much fun

Days at the beach are fun and many dogs love paddling or swimming in the sea followed by the inevitable ‘digging a hole in the sand’. Of course we all love to see our dogs frolicking around in the sea and enjoying themselves but just as you would with a child, it is really important to keep a close eye on them.

Don’t let your dog drink sea water as the salt may make your dog sick

Do ensure you wash the seawater off your dog as the salt and other minerals in sea water can damage your dog’s coat.

Do ensure your dog can swim and that the current is not too strong. Contrary to belief not all dogs can swim.

Do keep your dog away from fish that have washed onto the shore. They may smell and taste great to them, but they can make them ill.

Swimmers Tail

Swimmers tail can be really painful for a dog

Swimmers tail, sometimes called limber tail syndrome or broken wag, is the common name for the medical condition called acute caudal myopathy in dogs.

Swimmers tail is associated with swelling at the base of a dog’s tail which is usually caused by an injury, or overwork of that particular part of the body. Pain can be caused by restricted blood flow to the muscles at the base of the tail and the condition can happen due to swimming, (especially in cold water), being exposed to very cold and wet weather, hunting, or it can sometimes be caused by extended periods being confined in a crate or small kennel.

While all breeds of dogs can develop swimmers tail, working and hunting breeds (Labradors, Spaniels, Pointers) can be more susceptible, particularly if they spend a long time working or hunting in cold water – hence the name.

The symptoms of swimmers tail usually manifest themselves around twenty four hours after a period of strenuous exertion, particularly swimming during cold weather. The dog’s tail will typically hang limp or stick out straight for a few centimetres  from the base, before hanging limp from that point.

The dog may have difficulty in sitting and may show obvious signs of pain such as panting or whining. Other symptoms may include difficulty in defecating, loss of appetite and swelling at the base of the tail.

Generally speaking, this condition is not serious and can usually be managed at home. However, you should still seek veterinary advice since the symptoms could be a possible sign of more serious conditions such as a broken or fractured tail, or other more acute skeletal diseases.

As long as other conditions have been ruled out, swimmers tail will usually clear up of its own accord in a matter of a few days. However, during this time the dog must be rested and his activity levels much reduced. Applying a warm compress can help to reduce swelling and alleviate any pain.

If the dog has a tendency to develop swimmers tail it is important to avoid allowing your dog to exercise too hard in cold weather, especially if this involves swimming in icy water and / or he is not in tip top condition to begin with.

Keeping Your Dog Safe During Autumn Time

A beautiful Autumnal walk

From muddy walks, to running through crisp golden leaves, there’s so much to enjoy in autumn but as with any change of season, there’s lots of things we need to do to keep our dogs safe and healthy during the autumnal months.   Autumn is the time of a chill in the air, falling leaves, Halloween and bonfire night and …conkers! All of which present certain dangers to your dogs.


Conkers are toxic to dogs

Conkers contain a toxin called aesculin, which can cause a dog to be sick or may upset their stomach. If enough is eaten, it can also produce more serious effects, and in rare cases can be deadly. Conkers taste quite bitter, so it’s unlikely that most dogs will eat enough to make them very ill.  After eating a conker, your dog may start to become unwell between one and six hours later. In rare circumstances, these effects can be delayed a few days.  Symptoms include:

Being sick and may contain blood
An upset stomach
Stomach pain
Being thirsty
Not wanting to eat their food
Being restless
Not walking in a straight line
Shaking or tremors
Not being able to move
Poisoning is not the only risk from these seeds. Conkers are large and hard and could cause your dog to choke on them or could block their stomach or gut.

If your dog has eaten conkers, then you should contact your vet for advice.  Never try to make your dog sick as this can be dangerous and may cause other problems.

Poisonous Plants in Autumn

All parts of the Oleander plant are toxic to your dog

Amaryllis: All parts are toxic to dogs, but especially the bulbs. Also present in winter.
Autumn crocus: All parts of the plant are very toxic to dogs.
Chrysanthemum: All parts of the plant are toxic, although the smell is likely to deter dogs from trying to eat it.
Acorns: These are toxic to dogs. Although serious cases of poisoning are rare, they can cause stomach problems, vomiting and intestinal blockages.
Hydrangea: Parts are toxic to dogs as they contain cyanide. Also present in spring and summer.
Oleander: All parts of the plant are toxic. Less than a handful of leaves can be fatal to dogs. Also present in summer.
Ragwort: All parts of this plant are poisonous, and even small doses can be fatal to dogs. Also present in spring and summer.

Halloween Hazards

Halloween can be a nightmare for dogs. Strangers in costumes knocking on doors and ringing doorbells can be really stressful for many.  Aside from the stress it may cause your dog, there are other potential dangers lurking on October 31st.

Prevent your dog from Escaping

Keep your dog in a safe room and away from the door. People will be coming to the house on a regular basis throughout the evening for trick or treat.  Adults and children will be dressed up in unusual costumes with masks. The continually ringing doorbell or knocking, and the door’s constant opening and closing may upset your dog. Their protective instinct may kick in or they may want to enthusiastically greet every visitor. In addition with the frequent opening of the front door, your dog has many an opportunity to escape is.

Microchip and ID Tag

A microchip, which is a legal requirement for dog owners, gives you the very best chance of being reunited with your dog should they become lost. Wherever they may end up, a chip will always carry your details so your beloved dog can be tracked back to you. It is also a legal requirement to make sure you keep this information updated should you move home.

It is also highly recommended to keep an ID tag on your dog’s collar with your name and contact number.  This, in addition to a microchip really does speed up the process of your dog being reunited with you.

Dog Costumes

Lots of families like to dress up for Halloween and this can include dressing up their dogs. If you choose to do this, make sure the costume isn’t uncomfortable, constricting or unsafe for your dog and isn’t causing them stress. Not all dogs will like being dressed up, do not force them to do anything they are uncomfortable with!  Avoid costumes that use elastic bands to keep them in place as these may be chewed by your dog and become a choking hazard.

Sweets and Chocolates

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs however sweets also pose a danger to dogs. Certain sweets, particularly chewing gums contain the sweetener xylitol which is actually even more poisonous to dogs than chocolate.

Packaging can also be dangerous when swallowed by dogs, causing choking or blockage of the intestine.

Make sure chocolate, sweets and empty wrappers aren’t left anywhere which is accessible to your dog. Should your dog consume anything it shouldn’t, keep the wrapper where possible and call your local vets immediately.


Too much raw pumpkin can upset your dog’s tummy

The good news is pumpkin is actually good for your dog and can be eaten.  The not so good news is that raw pumpkin is not recommended.  If your dog nibbles on a pumpkin sitting on someone’s porch during halloween, they can become very sick from the mold or bacteria it contains. Things like vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, or gastric upset may occur.

Although raw pumpkin, including the pulp and seeds, is low in calories and generally safe for dogs to eat, it can be difficult for them to digest. Too much raw pumpkin can lead to vomiting, trembling, pain, and intestinal blockage.


Creating a Halloween atmosphere in your home often involves the use of candles. Remember that pets are attracted to bright lights in a darkened room. Be particularly careful with candles around playful puppies and dogs.

Ideally candles should be kept out of reach of dogs and dogs should never be left alone in a room with candles lit.


Fireworks can be really scary for your dog

It is really common for dogs to be of fireworks and other loud noises.  They have no idea what these noises are and they can be really terrifying even for a human who does know!

The most common behaviour problems associated with fear of fireworks are destruction and escaping. When your dog becomes frightened of course they are going to try and reduce their fear.  To do this they may try and escape to get further away from the loud noise of the fireworks. If, by escaping your garden or going into a certain room or area of the house and being destructive makes your dog feel less afraid then the escape is reinforced because it successfully lessens their fear.  Unfortunately, escape and or destructive behaviour can be a problem for you and could also result in physical injury to your dog.

Create A Safe Place

Try to create a safe place for your dog to go to when they hear the noises that frightens them. But remember, this must be a safe location from their perspective, not yours. Notice where they goes, or tries to go, when they are frightened, and if at all possible, give them access to that place.

If they are trying to get under your bed, give them access to your bedroom. You can also create a safe space for your dark that is dark, small and shielded from the frightening sound as much as possible.  There are weighted blankets and thunder shirts that can be effective in helping calm your dog and making them feel safe and protected.

Turn the TV on or put on the radio to help block out the sound.  Draw your curtains or blinds to block out any visuals from the storms or fireworks.

Feed your dog in that location and associate other good things happening there. They must be able to come and go from this location freely. Confining them in the safe space when they don’t want to be there will only cause more problems.

The safe place approach may work with some dogs, but not all. Some dogs are motivated to move and be active when frightened and hiding won’t help them feel less fearful.

Distract Your Dog

This method works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Encourage them to engage in any activity that captures their attention and distracts them from behaving fearfully. Immediately try to interest them in doing something that they really enjoys. Get out the tennis ball and play fetch or practice some commands that they know. Give them a lot of praise and treats for paying attention to the game or the commands. As the noise builds, you may not be able to keep their attention on the activity, but it might delay the start of the fearful behaviour for longer and longer each time you do it. If you can’t keep your dogs attention and they begin acting afraid, stop the process. If you continue, you may inadvertently reinforce the fearful behaviour.

Behaviour Modification

Behaviour modification techniques are often successful in reducing fears and phobias. The appropriate techniques are called “counter­conditioning” and “desensitisation.” This means to condition or teach your dog to respond in non fearful ways to sounds and other stimuli that previously frightened them This must be done very gradually. Begin by exposing your dog to an intensity level of noise that doesn’t frighten them and pair it with something pleasant, like a treat or a fun game.

Gradually increase the volume as you continue to offer your dog something pleasant. Through this process, your dog will slowly start to associate good things with the sound that previously scared them.


Make a recording with fireworks noises on it.

Play the recording at such a low volume that your dog doesn’t respond fearfully. While the recording is playing, feed your dog dinner, give them a treat or play their favourite game.
Very gradually play the recording a little louder whilst continuing to give them treats or playing a super fun game.
Continue increasing the volume through many sessions over a period of several weeks or months. If at any time while the tape is playing, your dog displays fearful behaviour, stop immediately.

Begin your next session at a lower volume, one that doesn’t produce anxiety and proceed more slowly.

If these techniques aren’t used correctly, they won’t be successful and can even make the problem worse.

What Not To Do

Attempting to reassure your dog when they are afraid may reinforce their fearful behaviour. If you pet, soothe or give treats to them whilst they are behaving in a fearful manner may be interpreted by your dog as a reward for behaving this way.   Instead, try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice their fearfulness.

Don’t put your dog in a crate.  Putting your dog in a crate to prevent them from being destructive during a thunderstorm is not recommended. The likelihood is they will still be afraid when in the crate and are likely to injure themselves.

Don’t punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment will only make your dog more fearful.

Don’t try to force your dog to experience or be close to the sound that frightens them.

Keep Your Dog Safe During Winter Time

Dogs can get frostbite if their paws get too cold

Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts dogs can suffer from. Winter walks can become dangerous if chemicals from ice melting agents are licked off of bare paws. Below are a list of cold weather dangers which can affect your dog’s health:

Cold Related Hazards

Antifreeze and Road Grit and Salt

Antifreeze and rock salt are some of the cold weather chemicals that cause problems for dogs. Be especially careful of using anti-freeze with the chemical ethylene glycol, because it can be deadly to animals. Rock salt can cause a chain reaction of dangers. If a dog walks on it, it can irritate paw pads, causing dogs to lick or swallow the rock salt, which can result in agitation and vomiting. Look for ice melts with a propylene glycol base that is a relatively dog safe way to melt ice.


Very low temperatures and cold winds can quickly reduce your dog’s body temperature, causing frostbite and/or hypothermia. Most dogs will be fine outside as they are, but if it’s very cold, or if you’re spending a bit longer outdoors, then you might want to consider getting a coat for them and some protection for their paws. Every dog is different, but some dogs may be more at risk from cold weather, particularly small, slim, very young or older dogs, or those with short hair. If you do buy a coat make sure it fits well so that it doesn’t prevent them moving normally, either through being too tight or too loose. If you’re outside in the cold and your pet starts shivering, or appears very tired, then get them home as soon as possible. If they are very unwell, get worse or continue to be unwell, contact your vet immediately.


In very cold weather, if you’re out for a walk with your dog, it’s important that you keep a close eye on their paws. Ice and snow can stick to the fur between their pads and ball up. Not only could this be uncomfortable for your dog, but it also increases their risk of frostbite. If your dog lifts their paws, stops walking or whines it could be a sign that their paws are too cold. When cold, a dog’s body limits blood flow to their extremities (paws, tail, ears etc.) and instead, uses it to keep their vital organs safe and warm. This protects the organs, but does put these extremities at risk of being damaged by the cold. On very cold, icy or snowy days, try to keep the time they spend outside to a minimum and consider using a coat or paw protectors to keep them warm. If you’re concerned about them having frostbite contact your vet immediately.

Walking in the Dark

As the nights draw in and evenings get darker earlier, remember to keep you and your dog safe by wearing reflective clothing and using bright or reflective collars or light up leads. Road traffic accidents are common in the winter and there are a number of steps you can take to make you and your dog more visible at night. Check to make sure that your dog is micro chipped and that they are wearing ID tags in case they get lost after dark.   The Best Dog Harnesses reviews reflective harnesses and leads.

Canine Flu

Dogs can get flu too

Did you know dogs can get the flu, too? Yes, just like their owners, dogs can contract canine influenza causing similar symptoms. Canine influenza is a relatively new virus, having only developed in the last 12 years. But it’s becoming a growing concern.

Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by an influenza A virus.

The infection is spread through the germs released while coughing, barking and sneezing, or through contact with any contaminated objects – including hands, clothes and any surface dogs come into contact with. The virus can remain alive on these surfaces or clothing or hands for several hours.

To add to the complexity, dogs are most contagious during the 2-4 day incubation period, but exhibit no symptoms during this time. So exactly how and where your dog caught the virus could prove difficult to determine.

The human ‘flu’ is caused by the influenza virus, which cannot spread to dogs and the dog influenza virus cannot spread to people.

What are the symptoms?

Canine influenza is fairly nasty (though usually not life threatening), with around 80% of infected dogs showing symptoms. These include coughing, sneezing, lethargy and loss of appetite. Infected dogs may present with one of two different syndromes:

Mild: The more common of the two, with symptoms including coughing and nasal discharge. Some dogs are sick with dog flu for weeks.
Severe : Infected dogs will have a high fever with symptoms developing very quickly. At worst, these include intense coughing, weakness, lethargy, and trouble with breathing. In rare cases, pneumonia, can develop too.

If your dog is diagnosed with the canine influenza virus:

Separate your dog in a secure, well ventilated room away from other dogs to prevent the infection from spreading;
Provide plenty of fresh drinking water in a clean metal or ceramic bowl, since plastic can absorb the infection;
If you can, reduce the conditions which may cause your dog to bark to prevent any strain on the throat;
The vet may also prescribe medication to assist with your dog’s recovery and to make them more comfortable during their recovery.

Poisonous Plants in Winter

Poinsetta: This plant is mildly toxic to dogs.
Amaryllis: All parts are toxic to dogs, but especially the bulbs. Also present in autumn.
Holly: All parts of the plant are toxic, and eating the sharp, spiky leaves can also cause damage to the throat, stomach or guts. Dogs may be likely to try to eat the berries over winter.
Mistletoe: Present all year round but typically brought into houses over winter. The berries are usually the most toxic part of the plant. Hang well out of reach.
Snowdrops: While all the plant is toxic, usually the bulbs are most toxic to dogs. Also present in spring.

Christmas Hazards For Your Dog

Christmas is always a busy time, and with people, food and decorations everywhere sometimes our pets get up to things that aren’t always good for them! Read on and you will discover how to avoid some of the hazards that can befall our pets around the festive season.

Christmas Tree Decorations

Keep fragile Christmas decorations out of reach of dogs

Christmas trees and decorations are beautiful in the holidays, but can pose a danger to your furry family members. Dogs may attempt to climb to reach a decoration or rummage under the tree for presents causing the tree to fall and potentially result in injury. Keep your Christmas tree secure by using a stable stand or tying the top or sides of the tree to a hook in the ceiling or an adjacent wall. Evergreen needles, if ingested, can get stuck in your dog’s intestines and require surgery to remove. Make sure your dog does not drink any water from the Christmas tree pot as with or without additives this can cause stomach upsets.

Dogs are often attracted to ornaments hanging from the Christmas tree. Treasured ornaments should be hung high up on the Christmas tree so they are out of the reach of curious dogs. Wooden, metal, resin-cast or other durable ornaments should be used on the lower branches. Or, for your dog’s safety, avoid placing any ornaments on the lower branches of the Christmas tree.

Dogs can be very inquisitive with tinsel and ribbons. However, if ingested, these decorative items can wrap around the base of a dog’s tongue and become caught in their intestines causing an intestinal blockage leading to an emergency surgery. If your pet is likely to eat ribbons, ornaments, or tinsel, try to avoid decorating your home with these items. If you suspect that your dog may have eaten a foreign object, visit your vet immediately.

Lights and Wires

If your dog chews on electrical cords it can result in serious injuries such as electrical shock and oral burns. If your dog seems interested in chewing electrical cords, take precautions to limit their exposure to holiday lights. For example, use electrical cord covers and cord organisers to make electrical cords less accessible and out of sight.

Christmas Plants

Holiday plants are a great way to brighten up a home, but can present real dangers, as many are toxic to dogs. Even non-toxic plants can still cause severe gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantity.

Holiday plants that can be harmful to pets include:


While poinsettias are widely thought to be toxic to dogs, ingestion may cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and result in vomiting, but they are generally considered low in toxicity.

Toys and Batteries

Batteries can be lethal to dogs

Keep small toys and loose batteries off the floor, away from the mouth of your dog. If your dog chews on a hard plastic toy, they risk breaking their teeth. Batteries, board game pieces and other small household items can contain zinc, which can cause pancreatitis and renal damage if ingested by a pet. Monitor a child’s playtime and pick up all toys after they’ve been played with. Also beware of batteries that could be in toys, cameras, watches, remote controls, and even greeting cards.


Alcohol can be poisonous to dogs and in some cases, can lead to a coma or death. Even seemingly harmless amounts can be lethal. As little as one ounce of alcohol can kill a small dog. Remember that alcohol can be found in many baked goods, such as fruit cake, so keep these too out of reach of your furry friends.

Christmas Food

Mince pies are a tradition at Christmas but raisins are toxic to dogs

The biggest cause of poorly dogs over the festive season is sometimes our own fault. We want to treat our beloved dogs as part of the family during the festivities including giving them a taste of our own Christmas indulgences. This is not just the Christmas dinner itself, but anything that your pet is not used to.

Most dogs owners feed their dogs a consistent diet throughout the year. The digestive system of our dogs has adapted to this type of diet, so when they are suddenly faced with turkey and all the trimmings, gastroenteritis (an upset stomach) is often the result.

Festive Foods that are very toxic to dogs:

Chocolate contains a toxic ingredient called theobromine. Dark chocolate contains the highest level of this substance. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain lower levels. If you know how much your dog weighs and how much and what type of chocolate they have eaten, your vet will be able to work out whether enough has been eaten to cause a problem.

Raisins in mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake. These are very toxic and can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Not all dogs will be sensitive but unfortunately there is no way of knowing which will be affected.

Coping with Visitors

At Christmas time often your normal routine goes completely out of the window as you enjoy the festivities with friends and families.  For your dog however this can be a stressful time.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many, but the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas can be a sensory overload for your dog.  From unexpected visitors to over enthusiastic family members, and endless food temptations, there is a lot for your dog  to cope with.

On the days you’re having guests over, it’s important to stick to your daily routine as much as possible for your dog. Try and ensure you exercise and feed them at the normal times.  If you keep to your normal routine the chances are your dog will be nice and relaxed by the time guests arrive. You can also help your dog to stay calm by giving them a distraction when your guests first arrive, for example a long lasting treat such as a food stuffed Kong.

If children are coming who are not used to being around dogs, or your dog isn’t used to children, ensure you talk to the family prior to their visit to make sure the children understand how to behave.  For example, to be calm, and not to approach your dog especially if it is eating or sleeping. It’s important to never leave a child alone with a dog.

Make sure your dog has somewhere they go for peace and quiet with their dog bed and fresh water when the festivities get too much. They will return when they are ready to be part of the fun again.