What to get your pet for Xmas

A boogie board, 100 tennis balls, a splash pool and an oil painting are some of the more unusual gifts pets may be receiving this Christmas, according to a survey of South African pet owners conducted by Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Most families - almost 74% - buy Christmas presents for heir pets, with 24% saying they will be giving gifts to other people's pets as well. Over half of owners (51%) will place their pet’s gifts under the tree, and 41% will wrap the gift. Practical food treats (83%) are by far the most popular choice, with toys second (48% of respondents).

With the economy still not out of the doldrums, pets – like people – should expect smaller, more affordable gifts this year. As many as 44% of respondents will spend under R50, with only 9% having budgeted more than R100 for their pet's pressie.

The Christmas Day menu for many pets is a share of their family’s Christmas feast according to 38% of respondents. And half of owners said they would be feeding bones, and for one a fast food burger will find its way into the doggy-dish.

Whilst the survey highlights how people include their beloved pets in the festive feasting, Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill's Pet Nutrition, cautions against indulging to excess during the holidays, "One of the best ways you can help your cat or dog live a long, healthy life is to maintain its correct weight – sweets and rich food are not the way to go."

Treats could be dangerous

"And sharing the after dinner Christmas chocolates is not the best treat for your dog," warns Fyvie. "Chocolate is poisonous to dogs as it contains theobromine, a substance humans easily metabolise but that can build up to toxic levels in a dog's system. A small amount will probably just give your dog an upset stomach but large amounts can have a more serious effect - theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, or a heart-attack. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate seek veterinary advice, and don't leave chocolates lying under the Christmas tree."

Hidden dangers of toys

"Even toys can be hazardous to pets," says Fyvie.

"A tennis ball can collect grit in the fibres that can damage teeth, so rather choose an indestructible rubber ball that is specifically designed for dogs. Frisbees are also fantastic if your dog likes to play fetch; look for one made of soft rubber or cloth – they are gentler on a dog's mouth and teeth.

"Toys for cats are easy to find and very often will incur little or no cost. Cats can be as interested in a piece of paper or a ping-pong ball as a more expensive option. Rolled up balls of tin foil, plastic caps from bottles, paper bags or anything that moves easily and makes a bit of noise will keep your cat or kitten entertained for hours."

If our cats and dogs could answer a survey, their desires would most probably be simple: a festive season spent with their families, surrounded by all the people they love the best.

Issued by Paula Wilson Media Consulting on behalf of Hill's Pet Nutrition.

- (Health24, updated December 2011)

(Pic: iStock)

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