Dangers of pulling Christmas crackers around pets

christmas crackers

As millions of families around the UK prepare to celebrate Christmas, Dr. Anna Foreman, Everypaw Pet Insurance’s in-house vet, talks about the dangers of pulling Christmas crackers around dogs.

What are the potential dangers of pulling Christmas crackers around dogs?

Ingestion of parts of the Christmas cracker – such as food items, small toys, Christmas hats. Paper hats tend not to cause an issue, however food items can be toxic, and small toys an obstruction risk or choking hazard

Fright from the loud noise – a Christmas cracker pop is much like a loud firework. This noise can lead to a dog going into flight or fight mode, either running away or becoming aggressive depending on their typical response to loud noises.

What should owners do if their dog chokes or eats one of the components of a Christmas cracker?

If a dog chokes – restrain the dog and open their mouth to look inside and retrieve any visible objects. Care not to get bitten – use forceps if needed. Do not stick fingers down a dog’s throat as it may damage the fragile and vascular tissues at the back of the throat.
Large objects can be dislodged by placing firm pressure with both thumbs underneath the jaw at the base of the throat and pushing forwards to ‘milk’ the item out of the mouth.

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Seek veterinary attention immediately – these actions should not be performed for more than two minutes without avail as this may delay veterinary action. Ideally performing these actions should not delay seeking veterinary attention altogether, and should be performed on the way to the vets after they have been contacted for advice. A few minutes can be the difference between life and death, like with humans.

If a dog eats one of the components – seek veterinary advice immediately in case the item ingested is toxic or may cause an obstruction.

What should owners do if their dog becomes spooked by the noise of a Christmas cracker being pulled?

Reactive dogs should be kept away from a Christmas meal, ie. put in a different room, or noiseless crackers used. If a dog becomes spooked (ie. preventative measures are not put in place) then the animal should be removed from the situation they are finding stressful.
An animal should be encouraged to a quiet, safe area – if they are looking for reassurance then lots of fuss and attention is appropriate, however if they are looking to hide then let them do so.

If an animal is showing high levels of aggression to this sort of noise (skipping warning signs) it is imperative that you are in contact with a canine behaviourist to help to address this behaviour. Animals who exhibit this behaviour can be a risk not only to their owner but also family members, other animals, and other strangers.

Tips for using Christmas crackers safely

Ideally purchase noise free crackers, or remove the ‘cracker’ strip from a cracker before use if a reactive dog is present. If they can be put in a separate room they should – prevention of a reaction is better than dealing with it once it has already occurred.

Care should be taken to pull crackers over a table rather than over the floor, and small pieces should be cleared up immediately. If your dog is a known scavenger, again being kept out of a room where Christmas crackers are being popped until a thorough clear up has been performed is recommended!

This is a guest post by Dr. Anna Foreman. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk


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