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Keeping your pet safe this festive season

This is a great time for most of us, but spare a thought for the hazards lurking on the table or under the Christmas tree for our furry friends this year…

In this blog, we’ve rounded up the Top Ten risks to pet health, to help you avoid emergency visits to us - while our on-call vets are here to help, they’d much rather not have to!

1)         Chocolate

I’m sure everyone knows this by now! But nevertheless, we still see chocolate poisoning cases every year, especially in greedy dogs who break into other people’s presents…

Danger:          Theobromine, highest levels in dark chocolate and cocoa powder

Effects:           Vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness or hyperactivity, panting and seizures.

2)         Nuts

While most nuts on their own just cause a stomach upset, some types can be really dangerous.

Danger:          Salt (in any salted nut mix) and Macadamia Nuts (toxic to dogs)

Effects:           Salt poisoning results in thirst, dehydration, kidney problems, disorientation, loss of balance and sometimes seizures or even death. Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, wobbliness, and even multi-organ failure.

3)         Alcohol

Humans actually handle booze quite well - dogs and cats, however, do not… so don’t let them get a taste for it!

Danger:          Ethanol, also hops (in beer)

Effects:           Ethanol causes “drunkenness” (as you’d expect!) but can lead to seizures and respiratory failure. Hops may produce a fever and vomiting, but are rarely life-threatening.

4)         Artificial Sweetener

Some artificial sweeteners (found in gum and many different “low-calorie” products) contain a chemical that is lethal to dogs.

Danger:          Xylitol

Effects:           Catastrophic drop in blood sugar leading to vomiting, weakness, seizures, collapse and death if not rapidly treated.

5)         Turkey Dinner

Lovely for us… potentially lethal for them!

Danger:          Bones, fat, onions/garlic/shallots, wild mushrooms

Effects:           Bird bones, especially when cooked, easily splinter and can perforate the intestine causing vomiting, internal bleeding, shock and collapse. The onion family can damage the red blood cells, leading to anaemia; and some wild mushrooms are highly toxic to dogs and cats (as well as humans!), with a range of effects including hallucinations, seizures, coma, vomiting, kidney failure and liver failure. 

6)         Christmas Cake/Mincemeat/Christmas Pudding

These are really odd, because sometimes a dog may eat a sizable helping and be fine… and then a few weeks later get a fatal dose after one nibble. To be safe - none of these for dogs or cats!

Danger:          The toxin is unknown, but is found in all vine fruits - grapes, raisins and currants

Effects:           Kidney failure, leading to dehydration, increased thirst, vomiting, a metallic smell to the breath, and collapse, sometimes with seizures.

7)         Tinsel

Apparently tinsel is back in fashion (if indeed it ever went out!). But there are risks to the glittery strands…

Danger:          Pets can swallow it - especially cats as it gets trapped around the barbs on their tongue.

Effects:           This is a “linear foreign body” and causes vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and sometimes a “cheese-wire” effect rupturing the intestines if not surgically removed.

8)         Electric Lights

Flickering, shining… and looking like they’re fun to play with for our pets! Unfortunately, the electric current isn’t safe…

Danger:          Electrocution after biting, breaking, or (especially for dogs) weeing on the cables.

Effects:           In most cases, these decorative lights are low-current and so give electrical burns, typically around the mouth (or in the case of the incontinent dog, the genitals). However, sudden death from heart failure is also possible.

9)         Baubles and Ornaments

Again, things that we find pretty, our pets may find irresistible - but when they smash it isn’t pretty!

Danger:          Sharp edges when broken (especially glass) - mainly cats; swallowed ornaments causing a blockage - mainly dogs.

Effects:           Cuts and scrapes, and if swallowed, vomiting and severe distress.

10)      Christmas Trees

The festive centre-piece is a lovely climbing frame for many cats…

Dangers:        Falling from the tree or, more likely, knocking the tree over and being catapulted across the living room!

Effects:           Cats usually land on their feet (literally!) but can be injured if thrown into a wall; in addition, other pets or people under the falling tree can be injured if the tree isn’t well secured.

We’d like to wish all our clients and pet patients a very happy Christmas.



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