Christmas Tips For Your Pets

christmas dog and cat

We really hope that you and your pets will enjoy the festive season. Here are some tips to help keep your pets safe and happy during the holidays.


  • Be careful what you feed your pets over Christmas because lots of festive treats can be highly toxic to pets. Some examples of toxic foods are chocolate, sweets, Christmas pudding, nuts, fruit cakes, onions and alcohol.
  • Watch out for visitors giving extra tit-bits to your pets, not only does this cause pets to gain weight it can give them stomach upsets or worse if the food is toxic.
  • Be careful that your pets don’t get hold of meat bones as they could splinter after being eaten and which can cause intestinal blockages or worse.
Some Christmas foods and drinks are highly toxic to pets

Some Christmas foods and drinks are highly toxic to pets


  • Shiny ornaments and decorations can be very attractive to curious pets. Pets can suffer serious injuries from chewing and ingesting these decorations. Tinsel’s shininess is attractive. When eaten, it can cause blockages, which often require surgery to remove.
  • Ribbons and string can cause intestinal obstructions if swallowed and are a choking hazard to pets if they get caught around the neck.
  • Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to pets if eaten.
  • Never leave lighted candles unattended or within reach of your pet. If knocked over they can cause burns or lead to a fire.
  • Tree needles can be toxic and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Even needles and the wire of artificial trees could pose a problem.
  • Chewing on electrical cords of lights can cause problems ranging from burned mouths, to electrical shock to death by electrocution.
  • Place Christmas trees in a stable stand. Even though you take precautions, make sure your pet is always supervised when in a room with a tree.
  • If you have a real tree make sure your pet cannot drink the water in the bucket/stand. Many people use preservatives that are highly toxic to pets.
Always supervise pets around Christmas decorations

Always supervise pets around Christmas decorations

Gifts Under The Tree

  • Rawhide or other edible items left under the tree can be very tempting. Companies often package rawhide or other pet gifts wrapped in ribbon, so make sure to remove these before you present gifts to your dog.
  • Perfumes and after-shaves usually contain ethanol and essential oils which can be very toxic.
  • Batteries for toys or other gifts can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction. Keep them in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted into the gift.

Gifts under the tree


  • Sometimes lots of visiting people can be very stressful for our pets. Make sure they have somewhere to retreat to if it all gets a bit too much. A quiet room, away from the commotion with water and food available will help nervous pets be more comfortable. Don’t force your pets to be petted by visitors.
  • Brushing up on obedience training before the holidays may help a dog who has become a little rusty. Be sure to inform your visitors of any household ‘rules’ or problem behaviors concerning your pets, for example, jumping up on the sofa, sneaking out the door or stealing food from the table.
  • If your pet gets distressed when you have visitors you can use Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs), these give off pheromones which help calm cats and dogs during stressful periods.
  • For dogs who may not behave or could be aggressive, placing them in a separate room, using pet gates, or having them stay at a friend’s house during a party, may be necessary and sometimes, boarding a dog in a kennel may be the safest alternative.

Visitors can be a source of great stress for pets


  • Remember that most pets are creatures of habit. Try to keep your pets routine the same as normal if possible – with lots of excitement and visitors it is often easy to forget to walk the dog or let the cat outside. A dog that is tired after a good run will be happier to sit or lie quietly and get into less trouble than a bored one.
  • Try to keep your pets feeding times the same and don’t be tempted to add too many rich Christmas extras to the bowl, as this may cause a tummy upset and could result in a trip to the vet.
Keep to your pets usual routine

Keep to your pets usual daily routines


  • If you are traveling around to visit relatives make sure that suitable provisions have been made for your pets. A bed or a travel crate is a good idea so that your pet has their own area to rest.
  • Remember to take your pet’s food with you and a couple of bowls.
  • Find the number of a vet local to the place you are visiting and take a copy of your pet insurance policy, in case of illness or accidents.
  • Make sure your pet is micro-chipped or is at least wearing a collar with a suitable id tag, just in case he or she runs off.
  • Remember to allow your pets time alone and a place to retreat to. This is especially important with dogs if there is another dog in the house that you are visiting (or if other dogs are visiting you).
Castle Vets Reading0118 9574488

Castle Vets Reading 0118 9574488


Feline Cystitis


Cystitis (which literally means inflammation of the bladder) is a problem that we see in many of our feline patients and it affects male and female cats of any age. Cystitis is a general term that is often used to describe problems associated with the bladder or difficulty urinating. There are several possible causes for cystitis in cats but the actual reason that these happen is unknown.

  • Urinary crystals or stones – these grow in the bladder and can obstruct the urine flow. This is very painful and possibly life threatening for the cat.
  • Bacterial infection – This problem is not often seen in cats but is usually the cause of cystitis in dogs and humans.
  • Idiopathic cystitis – Cystitis not linked to bacterial infection or crystals. We don’t know exactly what causes it but it is thought to be triggered by several possible factors including stress, obesity, lack of exercise, holding on to urine for long periods, no access to a litter tray, inappropriate diet, illness, not drinking enough fluids.

Signs to look out for
The symptoms of cystitis vary depending on the severity of the problem but some of the more common ones are listed below;

  • Frequent trips to the litter tray
  • Straining to pass urine (this is often mistaken for constipation because the cat will squat for long periods of time in the litter tray)
  • Urinating onto walls because it is a more comfortable position for a cat in pain (this can be mistaken for territorial spraying)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive genital licking
  • Crying when urinating
  • Crying when near the litter tray
  • Urinating in unusual places around the house – behind or on the furniture
  • Irritability or behavioural changes (due to the pain)
  • Strong smelling urine

If you notice any of these symptoms it is very important that your cat sees the vet quickly.

Normal and abnormal urination (pictures courtesy of Hills Pet Nutrition)

Normal and abnormal urination
(pictures courtesy of Hills Pet Nutrition)

A cat that cannot urinate properly can become seriously ill very quickly and may even go into kidney failure because the body is unable to remove waste in the urine and the toxins build up in the blood stream. This is often seen in cats that have bladder blockages caused by urinary crystals or stones.
If you think that your cat is not able to pass any urine at all it is an emergency and your cat needs to be seen by a vet immediately.

Diagnosis of Cystitis

Your vet may want to do a few or all of the following examinations and tests depending on the severity of your cat’s problem

  • Perform an abdominal examination and try to feel your cat’s bladder.
  • Test your cat’s urine – To look for bacteria, blood, pH levels and urinary crystals
  • Blood test – To check for infection and kidney function
  • Ultrasound or X-ray – to check for inflammation, bladder stones or other possible causes of cystitis

cat stethescope crop

Treatment of Cystitis
This will depend on the severity and the cause of the problem for each individual cat.

  • If your cat has become completely blocked and cannot pass urine he or she will usually require surgery to remove the blockage.
  • Your cat may require hospitalisation for a few days to be closely monitored.
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed.
  • Dietary changes or a special prescription diet may be advised so that any crystals can be dissolved in the bladder and prevented from re forming.

What you can do to help prevent Cystitis 

Try to  increase your cat’s water consumption by making a few changes

  • Have more water bowls and put them in various places around the house
  • Place water bowls well away from food bowls and litter trays (most cats prefer this)
  • Change the water twice daily
  • Consider using a cat water fountain because some cats prefer to drink moving water

Consider your cats food and feeding habits

  • The vet may have recommended a special diet, this should gradually be introduced over a week by mixing it with your cats current food until he or she is completely onto the new food.
  • Increasing the amount of wet food will increase your cat’s water. consumption as these tinned foods and pouches often contain a lot of water.
  • Place food bowls away from water bowls and litter trays.
  • If your cat is overweight it will be more likely to suffer from cystitis, so consider reducing calories by cutting down on treats or feeding a low calorie diet.

Lower stress levels by improving your cat’s core territory

  • Make sure there are lots of hiding places that your cat can retreat to if he or she is frightened.
  • Add another litter tray to the house (perhaps upstairs) so the cat has a choice about where to go to the toilet depending on how busy the household is.
  • Consider using a covered litter tray to give your cat more privacy.
  • Add extra feeding/water stations (there should be at least one per cat in a multi cat household) and place them well away from each other.
  • Feliway diffusers can also be used to lower anxiety levels and often work well in multi-cat households.
  • Make sure that your cat is getting exercise, even if he or she lives indoors.
  • If your cat is spending large amounts of time indoors for any reason ( he or she may not want to go outside because of poor weather or perhaps you need to confine them for another reason) make sure that you provide a litter tray.

If you have any questions about cystitis or would like more information, please contact the practice and we will be happy to help you.

For more information on Feliway you can visit

Common Pet Poisons

ImageEvery year there are thousands of reported cases of pet poisoning in the UK, and many of these are caused by substances that seem perfectly harmless to owners. Just because something is safe for humans does not mean that it is safe for our pets and some of the most dangerous pet poisons are foods and medications that we take on a daily basis. Young pets especially can be curious about a lot of things around the house and experiment through tasting things. Cats who are usually very sensible about not eating odd things, will often ingest poisonous substances on their coats when grooming.

Symptoms of poisoning can range from mild stomach upsets to serious gastrointestinal and neurological problems, heart and respiratory distress, coma and even death.

 Poisonous Foods

Some foods can be highly toxic to our pets even in small quantities so think carefully before you give that treat. These are some of the most toxic foods for pets

  • Chocolate – certain types with high cocoa levels even in small quantities can be highly toxic
  • Raisins and Grapes – even small amounts of these can lead to kidney failure
  • Xylitol – this is a sweetener and is found in many products including gum and sweets
  • Avacados – these contain persin which can be toxic
  • Nuts – nuts (especially macadamia nuts) can cause vomiting and diarrhoea

 poison food

Human Medicines

Most of us have medicines stored somewhere in our home. Over the counter and prescription medicines meant for people can be highly toxic to our pets and you should never give your pet any medication that is meant for humans – if your pet is unwell or in pain seek veterinary advice immediately.

The most commonly reported medication poisonings are

  • Paracetamol – even a small dose can cause irreversible kidney and liver damage and death
  • Painkillers – cause stomach and intestinal ulcers and kidney failure (ibuprofen, Aspirin etc)
  • Antidepressants – can cause neurological problems, sedation, agitation and seizures
  • Cough and Cold Medicines – can cause severe liver failure


Flowers and Plants

Some flowers and plants can be highly toxic if ingested by pets and care should be taken when choosing plants for the house and garden. The most commonly reported poisonings are

  • Lilies – pollen from these plants is particularly toxic to cats and is usually ingested when they are grooming after brushing past the flowers. It can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, heart problems, kidney failure, convulsions and death.
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons – contain toxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, coma and death.
  • Tulip and Daffodil Bulbs – these can cause serious stomach problems and convulsions
  • Mistletoe, Holly and Poisetta – these Christmas plants can cause vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Ivy – the leaves and berries are particularly poisonous to rabbits and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and paralysis

poison flowers

Other common poisons

Common household items can be poisonous to our pets and some don’t even have to be eaten as they can cause contact irritation just by being on the skin. These include

  • Rodenticides and Slug Bait – can cause breathing difficulties, internal bleeding and seizures.
  • Antifreeze – Has a sweet taste that pets like. It can cause hypothermia, breathing difficulties, seizures and kidney damage.
  • Dog Flea Products – contain permethrin which is highly toxic to cats, causing salivation, high temperature, uncontrollable seizures and death.
  • Household Cleaners – bleach, polich, detergents and disinfectants are irritants to the skin and highly toxic if ingested.
  • Decorating Materials – paint, varnish and white spirit are irritants to the skin and highly toxic if ingested.

sick pets in bed

Common symptoms of poisoning

There are many symptoms of poisoning to look out for in pets and they will vary depending on the type and amount of poison ingested.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughing
  • Excessive salivation/drooling
  • Blisters in the mouth
  • Irritation to foot pads and skin
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Trembling
  • Seizures/neurological signs
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coma
  • Death

How to prevent accidental poisoning 

  • Keep all medicines out of reach – preferably locked in a cupboard.

  • Keep human and animal medications in separate places to avoid mix ups

  • Never give medicines intended for human use to animals.

  • Store cleaning, DIY and Car products safely and away from animals

  • Clean up any spillages immediately and thoroughly

  • Be careful what foods you give to animals as treats

  • Do not leave plant bulbs lying around where dogs can reach them before planting

  • Always follow guidelines for flea and tick products, make sure they are licensed for our pet and never ever be tempted to use a dog product on a cat.

  • Try to opt for ‘pet safe’ plants around the home.

  • Stamens can be cut out of lilies in the home to prevent cats coming into contact with the pollen.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something that may be poisonous you should contact your veterinary surgery immediately for advice and an appointment if necessary. If your pet has eaten some medication or a household product then the vet will want to see the packet in order confirm the ingredients.

You can contact Castle Vets Reading on 0118 9574488 for further advice

Vets Now are based at Castle Vets Reading and provide emergency veterinary care and advice outside our normal surgery hours. They can be contacted in an emergency on the above number or by calling them directly on 0118 9594007

Is your pet overweight?

145I4176_-2851_25Obesity is a growing problem in our pets with an estimated 25 – 35% of them being overweight and suffering with associated health problems. Wild animals are able to regulate the amount of food they eat and the exercise they take in order to keep themselves fit. Unfortunately, our pets are not able to do this because they have to rely on us to provide their food and exercise opportunities. The RSPCA now believes obesity is an extremely serious welfare issue in our pets for the following reasons

  • Obesity can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering
  • In some animals obesity can be extremely disabling
  • It can affect animals for long periods of their lives
  • It is a preventable problem that is caused by the owners

Being overweight can also make it more likely that your pet could suffer from serious problems and conditions such as

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Skin Problems
  • Anal Gland Problems
  • Cystitis
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Ulcers / pressure sores

Is your pet overweight?

It is often difficult for us to see that our own pets are overweight. Weight gain in pets can be so gradual that we don’t notice until someone points it out to us. The next time you stroke your pet run your hands over the back and chest area. In a normal healthy animal you should be able to feel bones without applying any pressure (you should not be able to see them). Your pet should also have a visible waist line. If you cannot feel your pet’s backbone and ribs without applying pressure then your pet may be overweight. You can also look at a body condition score chart to see what shape your pet should be.

Body condition chart

Body condition chart

 How do pets that hardly eat anything become overweight?

The main reason that pets become overweight is because the food that they eat contains more energy or calories than they can use up during exercise. Some foods are very high in calories and it doesn’t take many calories to keep a pet overweight once it gets to that stage.

One of the main causes for extra calorie intake in our pets is that we often feed the amount of food advised on the pet food feeding guides, but forget to take into account all of the extra tit-bits and treats that we feed our pets during the day. Before you give your pet a treat have a think about the amount of calories it might contain.

 Our pets are also very good at manipulating us and many quickly learn that if they perform certain behaviours i.e. barking, meowing, head nudges and “the big- eyed look” they will get a treat or some more food in their bowl.


Think about the size of the treat and calories it may contain in comparison to your pets size

 What you can do to help

It is really important that anyone who interacts with your pet understands that he or she is on a diet and must not be given extras; explain to everyone involved the benefits of keeping your pet fit and healthy and why they must cut out all of those extra food treats.

Make an appointment with a veterinary nurse who can check your pet’s weight and give you advice on how to keep your pet fit. Any weight loss should be gradual and your pet should be weighed regularly. Castle Vets Reading does not charge for these appointments.

Tips and tricks

  • Weigh out your pets daily food amount rather than guessing. Measuring feeding amounts by eye is not very accurate at all and even a few extra biscuits every day soon adds up.
  • Cut out all of those unnecessary tit-bits or cut back on your pet’s main food.
  • Make sure you exercise your dog properly (even if it is raining) and remember that if your dog doesn’t get his or her walk, for whatever reason, then you should reduce the amount of food that you give for that day.
  • Cats will often refuse to go out if the weather is not good so try to encourage more activity through play and spending time with your cat to get him or her chasing toys and moving around.
  • Cats meow and dogs will bark or whine for lots of reasons – don’t be tempted to think that they are hungry every time they make a noise, because they may just be saying hello or asking for a fuss. Dogs, cats and small pets who enjoy company, will get pleasure from being groomed with a gentle brush or comb, especially if it’s on your lap in the evening.
  • Play with your pet and involve him or her in some sort of training to stimulate his mind, finishing up with plenty of praise. Even little training exercises will burn some calories.
  • If your dog enjoys a treat now and then try them with a piece of raw carrot or other vegetable. If you feed a dry diet, a few of those biscuits can be put aside to feed as rewards or tit-bits without adding extra daily calories.
  • If you are giving your pets treats on a regular basis make sure you reduce the amount of food in their daily meals accordingly.
  • Try spreading your pets food over several small meals throughout the day rather than 2 big meals morning and evening.
  • Rabbits and other small animals can also benefit from toys such as balls and tunnels, especially good if they are edible and made from natural fibre and grasses. There are a fantastic array of foods on the market that are wholesome and beneficial but also help you to feel you are giving your pet something special.
  • You can use scatter feeding to slow down your pets eating, make food last longer and make eating fun.

Being overweight can have serious health implications

If you have any questions about overweight pets or would like more information, please contact Castle Vets Reading and we will be happy to help you.