Things pet owners should be careful of during the festive season

Things pet owners should be careful of during the festive season

20.12.16
Tagged in: Author: Dr Robyn Chandler

The festive season is a time for love and indulgence, but it’s also a time when there may be more dangers around the home for your pets. Every year a vet practice sees at least a few cases of “seasonal indiscretion”, which usually end with the groaning pet owner needing to use their credit card (again) after their dozy, drooling pooch has had to receive an injection to get them to regurgitate whatever they’ve swallowed. Sometimes, though, the consequences can be much more serious.

Not your idea of a Merry Christmas? Then read on for 9 things we’d recommend you watch out for this festive season.

  • Raisins, sultanas, currants and grapes

These can cause severe, acute kidney failure in dogs. While the reasons are not yet fully understood, it is said that even a tiny amount of the toxin is enough to cause fatal kidney failure, so make sure you keep the Christmas cake and mince pies out of reach of your dogs.

  • Alcohol

You probably (we hope) already know that it’s not a good idea to give your pets alcohol, but there can be some sneaky sources of alcohol in your home at this time of year. Some to watch out for are alcoholic chocolates, rum-soaked fruit puddings and Christmas cakes, desserts and even unbaked dough that contain yeast. While we humans have debatably evolved the ability to process alcohol, our pets do not have the enzymes necessary to do so, making even a small amount of alcohol really dangerous to them. This can cause low blood sugar, low blood pressure, hypothermia, seizures, coma and even death. And you thought getting out of bed on Boxing Day was tough.

  • Chocolate

Cocoa and chocolate contain theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and can cause irregular heartbeats, hyperactivity, pancreatitis and seizures. The higher the cocoa content, the more dangerous the chocolate. Cooking chocolate and dark chocolates are the most dangerous, while chocolates wrappers can also cause intestinal obstructions.

  • Tree decorations

While they look lovely on your tree, Christmas balls can cause serious intestinal obstruction if swallowed, as well as cuts in the mouth if chewed on. Cats are particularly partial to snacking on strings and tinsel, which cause a very dangerous “linear foreign body”. We’d recommend you keep all decorations, wrapping paper and ribbons out of your mischievous pets’ reach – they offer far too much temptation to even the best trained.

  • Leftovers

Rich, fatty foods such as gravy, Yorkshire puddings, crackling or roast meat can cause havoc with your pet’s tummy. The likely outcomes of sharing your Christmas dinner with your furry friends are pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and/or gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). A vomiting pooch with diarrhoea is not the best way to start your Christmas lunch.

Foods containing onion or garlic are also toxic, especially for cats. These not only cause gastrointestinal irritation but damage the red blood cells, causing them to rupture. Beware of foods that have been cooked with these ingredisents.

  • Xylitol

This sweetener is used as a sugar replacement and can be found in biscuits, cakes and chewing gum, especially products for diabetics. It’s very dangerous for dogs and even a tiny amount can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) or fatal liver failure.

  • Nuts

Nuts such as peanuts and macadamias can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even muscular problems.

  • Plants

Poinsettias are common Christmas plants, which are mildly toxic to dogs and cats. If ingested they can cause irritation and inflammation of the mouth, and drooling and vomiting. Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Lilies are extremely toxic to cats - even a tiny amount of any part of the plant (leaves, stem, flower or pollen) can cause fatal kidney failure. Just brushing past the plant can leave pollen on your cat’s coat, which they will later ingest when grooming. We would strongly advise against keeping any lilies in your house or garden if you’re a cat owner. 

  • Anti-freeze

Although not something you’ll necessarily serve with Christmas dinner, anti-freeze is obviously something that may be needed due to the chilly weather so it’s worth a mention. This is one of a few toxic things that cats seem to find genuinely delicious and will willingly lick it up. It is highly toxic and causes severe kidney failure. Please be really careful to store this appropriately and clean up any spills thoroughly. 

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by your loved ones, whether they’re human, animal, or both. Just remember to keep your pets safe, and make sure that spoiling them doesn’t end up spoiling your festive season.

If your pet has just swallowed something you’re unsure of, click here to read “What to do if my pet has eaten something dangerous”.

 

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