Veterinary nurse warns Aussie pet owners over dreaded 'Christmas curse'

Several factors increase pets’ chances of a 'one-way visit' to the vet this Christmas.

Spirits are high over the festive period as families come together and enjoy the warm weather. Yet this time of year is also notorious for being the busiest and “saddest” time for vet clinics, with staff bracing themselves for what they call the “Christmas curse”.

The phrase relates to a list of factors that cause appointments to skyrocket and a spike in the number of “one-way visits” to the vet.

“It’s something that people in the vet industry just dread every year,” vet nurse Tess Nolan told Yahoo News Australia. “We know it’s coming, and we know the clinics are going to be extremely flat-out busy with little staff to support the influx of patients.”

She said euthanasia peaks during public holidays and Easter, but is highest during Christmas.

Vet Nurse Tess pictured with a dog.
Tess says vet clinics typically expect a busy period over the holidays. Source: TikTok

Pet owners have more time on their hands

There are many factors thought to contribute to the “Christmas curse” and the first is simply because pet owners have more time on their hands.

“Pet owners tend to have more free time during those holiday weeks so they are able to visit the vet,” Nolan explained. “Dogs and cats are good at hiding pain and discomfort, and when pet owners are home a little more around the holiday season they tend to notice and pick up on things more.”

The rise in visits to the vet increases the number of ailments being flagged, and subsequently leads to more pets being put down. Vets urge pet owners to monitor their furry friends all year round and adopt a proactive approach to prevent serious illnesses from developing, rather than leaving it too late.

Exposure to new environments and new things

Aussies are increasingly treating their pets like family – and although all that love is arguably good for the animal's well-being – it exposes them to unnecessary risk, especially when food is involved.

“Pets are often given things that they generally shouldn’t eat – sparking sudden pancreatitis or a foreign body blockage, leading to many vet visits and even surgery,” Nolan said.

Feeding pets leftover food or offering them excessive treats can trigger bouts of gastrointestinal issues which can easily be avoided, with perseverance and communication being key. Pets should not be given leftovers and instead be offered specific diet-appropriate treats, she says.

Exposure to new locations and new animals as loved ones mingle should also be gradually introduced to prevent any issues for pets during the festive season.

Vet nurse with dog
Think twice before sharing too much turkey. Source: TikTok

Paralysis ticks are ‘everywhere’

Ticks are also rife during the warmer months and this year in particular vets have been inundated with cats and dogs after coming into contact with the toxic arachnids, which can prove fatal if left untreated in pets.

In October, Dr Joan Gibbons told Yahoo News her veterinary clinic in Murwillumbah, NSW has seen new pets being treated daily because of tick bites. She explained the treatment process was more extensive than many believe, requiring medical staff to “completely shave” the pets and inject them with tick serum, before oxygen care and specialists were called in if the situation worsened.

“Paralysis ticks are everywhere,” the vet said plainly. She said there are two ways to protect pets from ticks and both are proactive approaches to help avoid the vet clinic during the Christmas rush.

  1. Give your pet oral tablets — some offer monthly protection, while others can safeguard the animal for longer.

  2. Get into the habit of "checking them every day" for ticks.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.