How to spoil your pooch safely this Christmas

I’m not sure where this year went, but Christmas is quickly creeping up on us. And this is a time of year where we all love to spoil our pooches. Well, even more than we do the entire rest of the year.

So whether you venture out into a big national chain or your small independent pet shop, you’re going to see gifts galore lining the shelves. Treats, bones, and toys stuffed into garish stockings – that’s what Christmas is all about. Your options are practically endless.

And, I’ll be the first to say it: it’s easy to get carried away. Each year you say you won’t. But then you see the slightest wag of your pup’s tail in front of a stuffed sprout in a Christmas hat, and before you know it, it’s in your basket. When it comes to treats, as long as they say they’re healthy and look tasty, we’re unlikely to get out our magnifying glasses to read the ingredients. After all, we don’t want to risk being on the receiving end of those disappointed puppy dog eyes.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we have to do as pawrents. Between derivatives, allergens, rawhide, and certain toys, not all presents will be safe for your pooch to enjoy this festive season. And a little extra awareness and care when choosing treats could make the difference between a wag-worthy Christmas day for your pup, and a day spent hating life in the corner wishing they could just stop the toxic farts.

So, without further ado, this is your guide to navigating buying Christmas presents for your dog.

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Knowing what to be wary of

I’m a big advocate of the fact that all pups are different. What’s perfectly safe and enjoyable for your pooch could lead to days of discomfort for my George, for example.

So, when it comes to treats and toys, while there are some hard and fast rules to live by, other choices will be down to the personal preferences of your pooch. For example, allergens won’t be the same for all pups. I’m just going to point out some of the items you should be a bit more wary of. Knowledge is power, and with more information, you can make the best choices when buying Christmas presents for your dog.

Bones

Bones are a controversial one for pawrents, because while our pup’s think they’re the best thing since sliced bread, they can be quite dangerous if you don’t choose carefully.

First of all, there’s a big difference between raw and cooked bones – the latter being one to avoid. I know I said I wasn’t going to tell you what you do, but this one’s important. Cooking bones makes them weaker, meaning they’re more likely to break apart, cut your pup’s gums, or become a choking hazard. None of which will be on their Christmas list – or yours, for that matter – I’m sure.

Other than that, so long as you opt for a bone that doesn’t have any of your dog’s allergens (more on this later), raw bones can be a great Christmas treat.

Some more things to consider are the bone’s size and how long your pooch is allowed to spend going to town. A good rule of thumb is that bones should be slightly bigger than your dog’s head. This way, they’re unable to swallow it whole – no matter how much they may try. And, as most dogs would happily chew bones until the cows come home, 15 minutes is often a good amount of time to let them have their fun without risking hurting themselves.

Treats

When it comes to interrogating labels in the treat aisle, derivatives are a big ingredient to look out for. They can be labelled as ‘animal’ or ‘vegetable’, but either way, you need to avoid them with a 10-foot pole. They’re basically all the cast-offs of animals or veg that can’t be used elsewhere. So those animal derivatives could be a nutritious chicken breast, in theory. But I could be Elon Musk in disguise. It’s not very likely, is it?

The greater chance is they’re an amalgam of chicken feet, beaks, and eyeballs. And while vegetable derivatives could be sweet potatoes, but they’re more likely to be leftovers that have been stripped of all nutritional value.

I remember I used to get George these bones that he LOVED. Like, he could not get enough. But, upon further inspection, turns out a bone isn’t always just a plain, old natural bone. It still had derivatives in it.

And the biggest issue with derivatives is that you never know exactly what you’re getting. Is it chicken, pork, beef, llama? For all you know, a bone or treat could be filled with all the allergens your pup’s stomach can’t tolerate. And smelly korma poos are not on the menu this Christmas. It’s really not worth the gamble. So be cautious of any festive treat that lists derivatives on the label.

Rawhide

Rawhide is something you should avoid. While it’s generally considered safe for smaller dogs to chew (but not always), larger dogs with a stronger jaw can easily break bits off. Even for those small pups, though, rawhide is difficult to digest, lasting up to months in your pup’s tummy. If it leads to blockages, it may even require a vet visit or prove fatal. And I know that’s not something you signed up for when buying that rawhide candy cane.

Also, it’s like your Christmas presents for your dog is a bag of chemicals. To prevent spoiling, rawhide is covered in chemical preservatives. And then it’s soaked in even more to strip all the hair and fat. That’s before the hydrogen peroxide and bleach are introduced to get rid of any offensive smells.

That’s a lot of nasties for one treat, so it’s best to stay well away. Like with derivatives, this is a lot of risks to take when there’s so many natural, safer alternatives out there.

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Toys

Now let’s look at Christmas toys.

I can’t help but question whether anything that’s made in bulk for such a short period of time undergoes thorough quality control. We’ve all seen the plethora of flimsy stuffed parsnips, santas, and baby Jesuses out there. Well perhaps not that last one, but you get my point.

When it comes to choosing which toys to put under the tree, just take a little extra time to assess their quality. Does the stitching seem well done? What fabrics are they made of? Are they synthetic or natural? Wool, synthetics, and other fabrics can trigger inhalant allergies in some breeds. So a little extra attention could keep this festive season a positive one.

Allergies

On that last point, let’s close this off by talking about allergies. One of the easiest ways to ensure the Christmas treats and toys you buy for your pooch are safe is to identify their allergens.

Say a certain kind of treat makes your pup feel lethargic for days. If you don’t know the exact ingredient that’s causing an issue, how can you confidently choose something different? Or, if you don’t know your pup gets canine atopic dermatitis from wool, how will you know that wool Christmas tree is not the toy to pick?

By taking a quick intolerance test, you know exactly what to look out for on labels. No matter how much your pup really wants it, if a treat contains soy, and you know it doesn’t agree with their stomach, you can quickly move on to something else. Christmas shopping becomes a far simpler process.

Nothing can stand between you and buying mountains of Christmas presents for your dog. But these are some thoughts to consider that will help ensure your chosen treats and gifts are well received, and don’t become a full-fledged festive disaster.

If you’re looking for natural, safe alternative Christmas presents for your dog, keep your eyes peeled for our new treat range that contains 80% clean protein sources. And, if you want to uncover your pup’s allergies before you get carried away buying them treats, our non-invasive sensitivity tests will get you the answers in no time.