The most magical time of the year has begun! Whilst this time brings the most wonderful feeling through great smells, colours, decorations, as well as the excitement of seeing family, exchanging gifts, and making memories, for pet owners it can be a quite a minefield in ensuring your pet is safe during the festive season.
Our pets, now more than ever, are considered fully fledged members of the family and as such, are included in every single part of our Christmas joy. While they enjoy the celebrations with us, unfortunately their inquisitive nature can sometimes land them in a little trouble from snapping up dinner leftovers that don’t agree with them, indulging in sweets that have been left within paw reach, or being a little too boisterous with Christmas decorations around the home. Did you know that in the UK, emergency calls to vets are increased by approximately 40% at Christmas?
I’m sure that putting your pet’s safety at risk is not on your wish list, so do take a few minutes to read up on toxins and hazards that could pose a risk to your pet this Christmas.
Our Pets Naughty List of Christmas foods:
- Chocolate: it contains caffeine and a substance called methylxanthines theobromine which is toxic for both dogs and cats. The amount of toxin contained depends on the type of chocolate. Compared to dark and baking chocolate, milk chocolate has a lower theobromine concentration, and white chocolate is considered too low in concentration for inducing intoxication.
- Grapes, raisins, sultanas, and currants: although the exact mechanism that causes grape-induced intoxication is unknown, they have been reported to cause acute kidney failure in dogs. It is important to say that even small doses of these fruits can be dangerous, whether ingested raw or cooked as ingredients of fruit cake, baked goods, snack bars etc. Published articles have identified renal failure after ingestion of four to five grapes in a dog weighing 8.2kg. Given the potential harm of grape ingestion, performing basic decontamination should be considered even if you’re not 100% sure that your dog actually ingested them. Renal failure does not develop in all dogs that ingest grapes or raisins, however this is common and pet owners should err on the side of caution if ingested. Grapes are also toxic for cats however the reduced number of cases is explained by their high food selectivity.
- Allium species (onion, garlic, leeks, and chives): these bulbous plants are commonly used in cooking – especially in stuffing that may feature on our Christmas dinner plate! No matter what form your pet consumes this in, it can be harmful to them, and cooking or spoilage does not reduce their potential toxicity. The primary toxicologic mechanism is oxidative haemolysis, which can cause life threatening anaemia if consumed.
- Ethanol: although this is an all-year-round pet hazard to watch out for – alcohol is more present at this time of the year through celebrations and Christmas treats such as Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding. Once ingested, ethanol is rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and crosses the blood-brain barrier, similar to what happens to us humans.
- Other: macadamia nuts, blue cheese, fatty and mouldy foods can be harmful to your pet – bones from cooked chicken or turkey also present the risk of a choking hazard and can cause gut tears and blockages if ingested.
- Xylitol: this is a common sweetener found in sugar-free sweets, baked goods, drinks, cereals, and toothpaste. In dogs, it has significant toxic effects that can cause hypoglycaemia and occasionally acute liver failure. With celebrations in full swing during the festive season and lots of gift-giving from friends and family, you’ll find your house is coming down with sweet treats at this time of the year which your pets would love to devour.
Christmas Decoration/Celebration Hazards
Our pets have naturally inquisitive minds so be prepared for them to literally stick their nose into every element of your Christmas celebrations. Keep in mind any of your Christmas décor that could be edible or easily lifted as these can easily present
as choking hazards for your pet. With an abundance of gift-giving happening during this time, there will also be mass amounts of wrapping paper, bows and ribbons littering your floor on Christmas morning – ensure these are well cleaned up after so they are not accidentally eaten by your pet. As part of your gifting hazard awareness, make sure to also keep all batteries intended for new toys and gadgets well out of reach from your pet.
During this time of the year, you may also have some lovely festive plants in your home such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, and poinsettias – do ensure these are also well out of your pets reach as they can also cause vomiting or mild skin irritations.
Other Areas to Consider
With the temperatures plummeting, frost and ice now greets us in the morning. As part of your morning routines for your pet, make sure any water bowls outside are checked and cleaned – ensuring the water is not frozen and that their bowl is free from algae or any problematic bacteria.
During our morning routines as we head off to do chores, work, or other commitments, you may find yourself reaching for the anti-freeze to get our cars safely on the road. With every use, be mindful to clean up any spillages that may occur as this can be easily lapped up by your pet. Anti-freeze has a sweet taste and can be tempting for them however it can unfortunately be fatal. It’s important to note that ethylene glycol is also used in other anti-freeze solutions such as snow globes, water features and radiators.
If ingested by a cat for example and left untreated, they can develop serious and life-threatening illnesses such as metabolic acidosis and kidney failure which they are highly unlikely to recover from.
With temperatures dropping significantly during the winter months, make sure to also regularly check your pet’s water bowls outside as the easily freeze – it’s vitally important that your pet always has easy supply to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Make sure to also regularly clean food and water bowls to remove any algae and bacteria which may be harmful to your pet.
Know the signs!
As pet owners, we absolutely adore our pets and will naturally do everything in our power to keep them out of harm’s way. It can be an incredibly busy time of the year and unfortunately sometimes accidents can happen. Ahead of this year’s celebrations, make sure you know the signs of poisoning in your pet – these will vary depending on the type / amount of toxin they have ingested.
Make sure you are aware of our local vets normal / out of hours times this Christmas and if you suspect that your pet has ingested something dangerous, contact them immediately and provide as much detail as you can including what they ingested, how much they have consumed, the exact time of the incident and what symptoms and behaviours they are displaying.
For our pet owners we always recommend having a handy pet first aid kit ready to go at any point during the year – this may feature bandages, tape, saline wash, tick removers, emergency blankets and much more! To help your pet with illness and potential gastrointestinal upset and subsequent dehydration at any time but especially over the Christmas period, also add in Oralade GI Support to help hydrate and balance electrolytes which may have been disturbed as a result of vomiting and diarrhoea.
We hope you and the four-legged members of your family have a wonderful festive break!