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Pet safety over festive period

Tips on keeping your pets safe over the festive period

“Bandit” was a lovely, exuberant, four-year-old Cocker Spaniel. He was known as a bit of a thief, and he loved his food. 

"Bandit" was rushed into the Vet practice early on Christmas morning as he had eaten a wrapped box of Chocolates which had been placed underneath the Christmas tree as a last-minute present for a visiting relative. "Bandit" was kept in at the practice, he was hospitalised and given a medication to induce vomiting and then some supportive treatments, to ensure that he was protected from any Chocolate poisoning. 

This was not a good start to the Christmas Day for his family, and it certainly was not a nice visit to the practice for poor “Bandit”. 

Please keep your beloved pets safe this Christmas by keeping the following this advice. 

Chocolate is abundant at Christmastime, and all dog owners should always be aware that chocolate can be extremely poisonous to dogs. The severity of the poisoning depends on the type of chocolate ingested and on the dog’s weight. Dark chocolate is the most serious, this is because all chocolate contains a poisonous chemical called Theobromine, and the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. Initial signs of chocolate poisoning may include: vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, heart arrythmias and tremors. Although white chocolate contains less theobromine, it contains a higher fat content than other chocolate, so it can potentially still make your dog ill. Please keep any Chocolate, and remember even if it is wrapped, well out of your dog’s reach, and do not ever be tempted to give any chocolate as a treat, it is a poison to dogs! 

As well as chocolate, an abundance of different sweets are available during the festive season, and just like chocolate, they can pose problems to our pets if consumed. This is because many sweets also contain added artificial sweeteners, including Xylitol, which can cause poisoning if ingested and a rapid drop in blood glucose resulting in the dog collapsing. As well as this danger, most sweets can also cause a marked laxative effect, particularly in dogs, and this is likely to result in acute diarrhoea, ... which is certainly not ideal at Christmas!  

The consumption of grapes, raisins and currants presents a protentional health threat to dogs and cats. Exactly why these fruit foods are poisonous is unknown, however, it is known that their toxicity can induce kidney failure, symptoms of which can sometimes be delayed for 24 to 72 hours. Raisins can be found in many festive foods, so be sure to not leave Christmas cake, Stollen cake, Christmas puddings, Mince Pies and Chocolate covered Raisins accessible. Also, do keep grapes out of reach, whether in the fruit bowl or on the cheese board.  

Many cheeses are also best kept away from our pets, Blue Cheeses in particular. Blue cheeses contain a substance called Roquefortine C, which is a substance produced by the fungus used to produce these cheeses. Dogs are extremely sensitive to this substance which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and sometimes seizures. 

Pastry based Christmas pies, biscuits, and cakes, as well as usually being full of raisins, are also high in fat content, as are most cheeses. High fat foods can give dogs severe, painful stomach troubles: gastritis and pancreatitis. 

Nuts can be poisonous particularly Macadamia nuts, Walnuts, Almonds and Peanuts. After consuming nuts, dogs may suffer from a variety of poisoning symptoms, including weakness, high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Alcohol is often drunk in larger quantities over the festive season, if left accessible this can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning in our pets. Whisky and cream-based liquors can be particularly appealing, but these are all poisonous to your pets. 

Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives are found in many festive dishes. However, these contain a substance that can damage red blood cells in dogs and can potentially cause a life-threatening anaemia. Poisoning signs may not appear for a few days, but can include stomach problems, drowsiness, weakness, and rapid breathing. 

At this time of year, there are numerous delicious treats in the house. Although it is tempting to share with your pets, it is strongly advised not to give your pet, rich, high fat “scraps” like turkey skin or pork crackling, as any rapid changes in your pet’s diet can result in acute gastrointestinal upsets, including vomiting and diarrhoea.

Certain plants, commonly used for festive gifts and decoration, including Poinsettia, Amaryllis, Mistletoe, Ivy and Holly- Berries, can also be toxic to our pets... Even Christmas trees can cause problems if any preservatives are sprayed onto the trees. To ensure no potential problems, move any plants to areas where your pet is less inclined to have an inquisitive nibble, and you can place plastic covers over the base of your Christmas tree and a guard around it. 

The “take care” advice also goes for all your Christmas decorations and wrapping. Twinkling tinsel, baubles, and lights, wrapping string, tape and ribbons can look very enticing to both dogs and cats. However, pets can get into serious trouble through trying to play with them, as these can potentially cause injury, and intestinal obstruction requiring surgical intervention if eaten. 

Also, pets can become quite distressed and appear anxious by loud noises, hustle and bustle, and sadly, Christmas and New Year provides yet another opportunity for those noisy fireworks. So, be prepared and create a safe, quiet "den" or space for your pets to have some peace and quiet and to rest, away from all the chaos over the festive period.  

As the hours of daylight rapidly diminish, our working hours unfortunately don’t, and we have to walk our dogs in the dark or in diminished light. High visibility jackets or arm bands for ourselves, and leads, collars and jackets and flashing lights for our pets' collars can all go a long way to help them and us be seen by any traffic and other road users and reduce the risk of an unfortunate accident occurring. Please make sure that your pets are all micro-chipped to ensure that all the relevant contact details are up-to-date, and also have an identification tag on their collars.

Follow this seasonal advice to hopefully ensure a Happy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year both for you and for your lovely pets. 

Alison Laurie-Chalmers
Senior Consultant
Crown Vets 

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