It’s a lovely time of year for us humans, but the Festive Season can spell trouble for our furred and feathered friends. Here are some Christmas cautions for animals and pets with thanks to Vets4Pets Cleveleys.
Christmas Cautions for Animals and Pets
Christmas is a great time of year and should be fun for all the family, dogs included. You might know some of the potential toxic substances our dogs can come across and take steps to avoid them. However, the festive period is one where we often introduce all manner of exciting items into the house that we don’t normally have. Some of these things can be potentially harmful to our pooches and it’s worth knowing some of the common pitfalls.
We’ve tried to give you a few of the commonest Christmas poisonings below. It goes without saying, if in doubt contact your vet and they will be able to advise you.
Foods for Animals to Avoid in the Festive Season
Christmas is a time for us to overindulge in the tastier things in life! Not so your pets though, what’s a treat for us can be dangerous for the, Here are some Festive Food Christmas Cautions for Animals and Pets:
Grapes – exactly why and how these are poisonous to dogs is unknown and the exact volume needed to cause symptoms is difficult to predict. Some dogs will eat one or two grapes and become seriously ill but others can eat many of them without apparent signs. The only way to be safe is to keep them out of reach of your dog
Christmas pudding/christmas cake/mince pies – these Christmas fancies are bad for dogs and cats for a number of reasons.
Firstly-they are jam-packed full of currants, raisins and sultanas. These are all a variation on the ‘grape’ and as such have the same serious health risks. It is common for them to ingest far more ‘grapes’ in this form than they would fresh grapes because there are so many packed into these cakes and they are smaller.
Secondly – they are full of fat, suet etc which can often give them severe stomach troubles, vomiting etc but also, more worryingly high fat meals are one of the high risk factors leading to pancreatitis. This can be a very serious and costly disease to treat.
Thirdly – they are usually laced with large amounts of alcohol which can cause many of the symptoms of intoxication seen in people.
Chocolate coins and other choccy decorations – Most people are aware of the dangers from eating chocolate and take steps to avoid leaving them near their dogs, cats and household pets. However, it is not uncommon for people to forget about the chocolate coins or decorations and leave them in an irresistible location. As well as the dangers of the chocolate the actual wrapping foil can be problematic as it works through the digestive system.
Bones – At this time of year we often cook far more ‘joints’ than usual and this normally results in many more bones lying about. Once cooked ALL bones become brittle and splinter easily. This can lead to larger fragments getting ‘stuck’ causing obstructions but also smaller pieces can cause gut irritation and perforation or even just difficulty toileting.
Most people avoid the initial pitfall of your dog ‘borrowing the bones off the work surface’. But watch you don’t get caught out later on by putting the deliciously tasty smelling carcass/bone into the bin where is gets raided in the night. Best thing is to take it straight outside into a sealed bin.
Note: Birds (turkey/chicken/goose) are all hollow boned animals and as such these bones will splinter, whether eaten raw or cooked. Never give them to your dog under any circumstances.
Alcohol – we tend to use much more alcohol in our cooking at this time of year and so even normal titbits can be potentially problematic over the Christmas period. As it is for people, alcohol is intoxicating for dogs and can cause similar unpleasant side effects.
Please Don’t buy Reindeer Food!
Leaving a carrot out for Rudolph and a mince pie for Santa is an age old, lovely tradition that we’ve all done as children through the years.
However, there’s a new trend to leave sparkly reindeer food out in the garden, to guide the festive gift-givers into your home.
PLEASE DON’T! Reindeer food might be a useful guide for Santa, but unfortunately when it gets light on Christmas Day the birds in your garden will eat the food.
In reality it’s oats mixed with glitter and sequins. So when birds and other small animals in your garden eat it it can cause them problems with their digestion and even block their stomachs up and potentially lead to their death.
If you’ve already bought some or can’t manage without Reindeer Food in your life, simply put it in a bowl next to the window or door where the reindeer can see it when they arrive.
Christmas Decorations and Other Things Animals Should Avoid
Throughout December we fill our homes with all kinds of pretty things. While they’re pretty for us to look at they can be fatal for our pets. Here are some decorating do’s and don’ts in your round up of Christmas Cautions for Animals and Pets:
Mistletoe/holly/poinsettia – all of these pretty types of festive foliage are mildly toxic and can cause vomiting, drooling, diarrhoea to name a few.
Batteries – It’s not uncommon for Christmas presents to need a steady supply of batteries. These are often intriguing to your pooch and will slip down very easily. Containing a strong acid they can be pretty nasty for your pet so keep them out of reach.
Christmas trees can be extremely hazardous for cats and dogs for a number of reasons:
Pine needles (Christmas trees) – there are a couple of potential problems from these lovely trees. Pine needles in themselves can get stuck in paws and cause irritation as well as causing irritation or perforation of the intestines if eaten. In addition to this, the needles themselves are poisonous causing dietary upset, vomiting, diarrhoea and generally very miserable dogs. Vacuum daily and ideally keep plenty of water in the bucket to help reduce the number of fallen needles.
Trees make great climbing frames – many cats, and yes even dogs, will do their best to clamber up your tree to get to the most tempting decoration at the top or just out of interest. If not properly secured at the base, at best you’ll come home to a capsized tree. At worst you’ll find the tree has capsized onto your pet and caused a nasty injury or even death.
Baubles are amazing playthings, a bit of a pat from a paw and they swing temptingly back and forth. Apart from these things increasingly the chance of your cat or dog trying to clamber up the tree to get at a particularly tempting decoration they can cause troubles in themselves. When they break they tend to splinter into shards, these can cause quite nasty cuts to paws. If eaten they can cause blockages, irritation or even perforations.
Tree/house decorations – Christmas decorations are designed to look attractive and beautiful, unfortunately this usually means they are also tempting to your furry friends. Whilst not often toxic in their own right they can still cause significant problems if ingested.
Electrocution – the flashing lights are very appealing to our furry friends and they can become electrocuted whilst playing with them either through a claw or tooth going through the wires or from biting into a light.
Tinsel – dogs tend to eat this a little like spaghetti, often consuming an entire ribbon of tinsel in one go. Again these are often not especially toxic (even if not particularly nutritious either) but can bunch up and cause blockages. More worryingly it can start to work its way through the guts whilst some is still in the stomach, this effectively runs a thread through the intestines and causes a linear foreign body which is extremely serious!
They can easily get tangled up in the tinsel whilst trying to climb or play with your tree which can trap them. We often see cats having put their paws through the loops used on your baubles which can trap their legs when they try to jump off or move about. Whilst it may be amusing to come home and find your cat or dog wrapped up in tinsel it can be potentially very serious and can even cause death if it catches them in the wrong way.
Stockings/ribbons – It’s common for people to hang up their stockings this time of year or decorate presents with beautiful ribbon bows. These can cause the same problems as Tinsel. Make sure that they are firmly attached and your dog doesn’t get access to them.
Presents – One area where people can come unstuck is with Christmas presents.
We put a lot of effort in hiding away potential problems but then wrap up auntie Flo’s big box of chocolates to place under the tree. Although we can no longer tell what it is…… our dogs can!
Apart from the irritation of having them unwrap someone else’s present and having diarrhoea in the living room on Christmas day, you’re likely to be making a costly emergency trip to the vets. Make sure any tasty or tempting presents are placed high enough out of the way so that your dog can’t help themselves.
What if your dog/cat/pet does get into mischief?
If your pet consumes any of these things the first thing that you should do is contact your vet for advice.
Usually the more quickly that treatment is sought, the more successful it is.
Editors Note: Many years ago we had a lovely Cavalier King Charles called Toby. Like all dogs, Toby’s eyes were bigger than his stomach. My Dad, while clearing away the Christmas Dinner and washing up, had been titbitting him with turkey scraps. This was all too much for Toby, who had a dodgy tummy at the best of times. We spent most of Boxing Day afternoon at the emergency vets because he was ill. Suffice to say that Daddy wasn’t very popular either!
Christmas Food Cautions for Animals and Pets, in association with Vets4Pets at Cleveleys
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