Silly season is finally here, after a long and difficult year. For most of us this is the time of year when we let our guard down and become a little more relaxed about strict eating regimes and overall health considerations. And naturally, this relaxation of routine often filters down to our pets too because we’re so eager for our companions to join in the celebration and overindulgence. Before you dive into spoiling your pets a bit, please consider the effect your choices may have.
Often, with rich festive foods comes rich table scraps for pets and although our intentions of giving them a delicious treat are good, the end result for the pet is not always. The commercially prepared pet food that your pet has become accustomed to is scientifically formulated to provide the right amounts of vitamins and minerals, combined with the correct balance of nutrients for the life stage and life style of your pet. When feeding a Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) member’s brand you can rest assured that the formulation is as per the packaging, and that the food has been prepared using safe manufacturing practices, so your pet is getting the absolute best that you can afford. When you begin feeding your pet rich table scraps, their nutritional intake becomes unbalanced. In addition to this, the table scraps are prepared for human consumption, so pet safety has not been considered and the feeding of these foods can be very harmful to pet’s short and even long term health as it interferes with the correct balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals required for optimal health and the foodstuff prepared for humans may even contain an ingredient that is toxic to pets. A malnourished, unhealthy pet can become listless and lose condition when suddenly fed these table scraps and may even develop behavioural issues, such as irritability and aggression, spasms or fits that can lead to death.
When you add the stress of firework displays, which are often used during this time and over New Year’s especially, we have a disastrous recipe for all of our pets, as well as wild animals. Animals in general have a heightened sense of hearing, making the noise associated with fireworks extremely loud and scary. If they’re also struggling with digestive upsets from rich table scraps, the negative experience they have will be worsened and the associations they create could even generalise to all loud noises, making daily life difficult for them.
Pet owners are urged to take the necessary precautions to keep their pets safe and calm during any fireworks display. Keep them securely indoors, with sufficient food and water. If possible, stay with them to provide comfort and love and, if they’re up to it, play a game to make it a more positive experience. Play soothing music to try and drown out the frightening noises outside and, if needed, give calming medication (ask your vet for advice). If all else fails, prepare a “safe space” for your pet, where they can retreat to should the stress prove to be too much for them. Remember that the number of stray animals increases over this period, largely due to runaways trying to escape the noise that causes fear, anxiety, panic and confusion. These escape attempts can often lead to injury, so try and ensure that their safe space is free of injury-causing elements.