Vets are urging owners to add house ‘pet proofing’ to their Christmas to-do lists. Ensuring that potential edible hazards and other risky items are out of reach could avoid an unnecessary trip to the vets, over the festive period.
88% of vets in Northern Ireland who had treated a companion animal in 2017, reported cases of toxic ingestion over the Christmas break, a survey by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has revealed. Chocolates, raisins and mistletoe are all known to be toxic for dogs andthe proportion of vets who have seen dogs with poisoning continues to rise. Chocolate treats remain top of the edible hazards with 78% of vets across the UK treating a dog for this type of poisoning.
Cats are also no strangers to a veterinary appointment at Christmas. The survey found that almost one in four vets had treated a cat for antifreeze poisoning (23%) and around one in five (17%) for poisoning by seasonal plants such as lilies and poinsettia. Mistletoe is also known to be poisonous to cats. Festive decorations such as tinsel and fairy lights can also be a hazard if hung within reach of a family pet.
BVA Junior Vice President, Daniella Dos Santos said,
“Christmas is a time of fun and festivities for many families in the UK but presents, decorations and treats such as advent calendars can prove dangerous for pets. It’s good to be aware of what you have wrapped up underneath the tree such as chocolate treats, as the smells can prove irresistible to curious dogs. Decorations such as tinsel and baubles can result in the need for surgery to remove them from the gastrointestinal tract. We advise owners to keep presents, decorations and festive treats safely out of reach of pets. If you are concerned that they have eaten something they shouldn’t, consult your vet straight away.”
As many of us rush out to buy presents, prepare to decorate and open the first windows on our advent calendars, it can be easy to forget to ensure that the house is safe for our four-legged friends. To help keep Christmas hazard-free for pets, BVA recommends following these five simple tips:
- Protect your pet from poisons – a range of festive treats and traditions, such as chocolate in advent calendars and sweets, raisins, xylitol (found in sugar free treats), nuts, grapes, liquorice, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are toxic to cats and dogs.
- Keep decorations out of reach – ribbons, wrapping paper, baubles, tinsel and tree lights can seem like appealing playthings to cats and dogs but can be very dangerous if broken, chewed or swallowed. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept safe as, if ingested, they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach.
- Forget festive food for pets – we all enjoy a richer diet over Christmas, but fatty foods and Christmas dinners shouldn’t be shared with the animals of the household. They can trigger sickness and diarrhoea or other conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, so try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine. Bones including turkey bones should not be given to pets as they can splinter and puncture the digestive tract.
- Give toys not treats – we all want our pets to share the fun and many of us include a gift for our pet on the shopping list. But too many treats can lead to pet obesity, which can have serious consequences for their health, so consider opting for a new toy, or a long walk if you want to indulge your pet this Christmas.
- Know where to go – even with all the care in the world, animal accidents and emergencies can still happen. Make sure you’re prepared by checking your vet’s emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours or, if you are away from home, use the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Find a Vet facility at https://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/home/
For more information on pets and poisons download the free Animal Welfare Foundation ‘pets and poisons’ leaflet at https://www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk/animal-welfare-advice/petcare-leaflets/#pets-and-poisons.