December is a busy time of year with Christmas preparations underway and celebrations in full swing. For pet owners, it is important to recognise the potential hazards that the season can bring. The message is 'awareness' - making sure that your family and guests are aware of risks posed so that your pet remains safe and you all have an enjoyable Christmas.
Christmas time often means a busy home, with friends and family gathering. Remember that new faces and more noise can be scary for your pet, so it's a good idea to provide them with a room in which they can retreat into for some peace without being disturbed.
Be mindful of the front door opening with guests arriving and leaving. Make sure that dogs can't run out! Try to maintain your pet's normal routine, especially with feeding and exercise, to avoid them becoming too unsettled.
Festive food and drink
Remember to keep food and drink out of the reach of pets and remind your guests to do the same! Some foods that are commonly found in the household at this time of year that pose a risk to our pets are;
Chocolate. Chocolate toxicity is more common around this time of year as there is more chocolate around the home. Keep it out of the reach of pets, not forgetting Christmas tree chocolates, advent calendars or chocolates wrapped and left under the Christmas tree!
Xylitol. Some sweets contain the artificial sweetener, Xylitol that is harmful if eaten by our pets. It causes low blood sugar and seizures.
Grapes and dried fruits such as sultanas, raisins and currants including Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake can be toxic to pets if ingested.The active toxin present in grapes and raisins is not fully understood and whilst one pet may be unaffected by eating multiple grapes or raisins, another pet could suffer from acute kidney failure from eating as little as one grape or raisin. The difficulty is not knowing which pets might be affected to a more serious degree, therefore the best thing is to avoid your pets having access to grapes or raisins at any time.
🌰Nuts; With nut consumption peaking at Christmas times, there are associated risks for pets. The nuts and shells can be a choking hazard and can also cause intestinal problems. Macadamia nuts present an additional risk to dogs as ingestion has been associated with vomiting and weakness.
🧅Onion (including gravy); Onions and products containing onions, such as gravy and stuffing, can cause gastrointestinal upset and lead to red blood cell damage and anaemia in cats and dogs. The related vegetables leeks, garlic and spring onions can also have the same effects.
🍷Alcohol; Ingestion of alcohol can make a pet ill. Make sure that drinks glasses are kept off the floor to reduce the risk of your pet accidentally consuming alcohol.
If you think that your pet may have eaten something they shouldn't have, call your vet immediately.
Bones from meat, poultry or fish present a dangerous threat to pets. Cooked bones are brittle and therefore can splinter when chewed. This can lead to the digestive tract being pierced or an obstruction. As well as not feeding scraps with cooked bones in, ensure pets do not tear open bin bags or scavenge bones from bins.
It is also important to keep food caddies sealed and out of reach. Mouldy food in bins start to produce a poisonous substance called mycotoxins. Most food will begin to produce mycotoxins as it goes mouldy but common examples include:
- Cooked pasta
- Fruit (from rubbish bins or fruit that has fallen from trees)
- Dog food
- Compost heaps
If you throw away a large amount of pasta, bread or another food that’s prone to going mouldy, think about emptying the waste bin there and then or later that night so it doesn’t have time to grow mouldy in your kitchen.
Wash indoor and outdoor food caddies to stop any build up of mouldy residue. Make sure lids are locked in place and bins are sheltered if it's windy outside to stop them blowing over and exposing their contents.
Tinsel and ribbons
Given the chance, cats and kittens will play with ribbons used to wrap presents. These can be accidentally swallowed and become entangled in the cat’s intestines, causing life-threatening blockages. Playing with tinsel can cause the same problems in cats and other animals, including ferrets. Avoid this decoration
Christmas trees, baubles and fairy lights
Many cats and kittens will feel compelled to climb Christmas trees, endangering themselves.It is advisable to ensure trees are securely based so that they are less likely to be felled by a curious cat. Limiting access to rooms containing a tree when unsupervised is a good idea.
Baubles are of particular fascination to cats. Glass baubles can shatter, creating sharp shards dangerous to animals and children. Dogs have been known to chew baubles and other decorations. This can lead to lacerations in the mouth or intestinal blockages.
Fairy lights pose the possibility of pets getting tangled up in wires, which can cause an animal to panic and injure themselves, or they may be tempted to chew on them. Be aware of this hazard. Keep cables tidied out of reach or get a cable guard.
Plants such as amaryllis, mistletoe, poinsettia, holly and ivy are popular at this time of year, but if nibbled by our pets, can be poisonous ( in varying degrees). Keep plants out of reach or move them to a secure room away from your pet, especially if you are not at home.
Lilies (even small amounts of pollen) are very dangerous to cats – whether they are brushed against, licked or drink the water the flowers are kept in.
Seek urgent advice from your vet should you suspect your pet has eaten any plants.
🎄Bottle corks, corn on the cob, cocktail sticks and cracker toys - Ensure that they are tidied away or kept out of reach of pets.
🎄Ingestion of batteries is more common at this time of year. If the battery is chewed it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. If they are swallowed whole it is possible they will cause an obstruction. Call your vet if you suspect that your pet has chewed or swallowed a battery.
🎄Keep all medicines out of the reach of pets. Should your pet ingest any, please call your vet immediately for advice.
IN AN EMERGENCY
If you think that your pet may have eaten something that they shouldn't have then swift action is necessary.
Follow these four simple steps:
Step 1 - Prevent your pet from eating any more.
Step 2 - Phone your vet immediately!
Step 3 - Stay calm and follow your vet's instructions
Step 4 - Collect the relevant wrapping and packaging.
Make a note of our phone number and call us immediately - 01895 633600
Our poem summarises our Christmas message;
Curiosity at Christmas
Look at all the food to eat, with our paws we can just reach
mince pies, chocolates, Christmas cake, and sausage rolls recently baked.
So tempting to eat a little treat...sniff...lick…gobble…now we’re sick!
A Christmas tree! Let’s climb to the top! It’s beginning to wobble, down we drop!
Shiny glass baubles to swat with a paw, sees them shatter as they drop to the floor.
Sparkly tinsel to pounce on and chase and presents tied up with colourful lace.
So tempting to play with, lots of fun, until oops they’ve ended up in our tums!
Sneak off to the kitchen so not to be heard
Raid the bin for the bones of the cooked Christmas bird.
Excitable guests wanting to play,
we need a quiet space out of the way.
The moral of this poem goes, is
whilst you're having a festive doze,
don't forget to watch your pets
so they don't end up needing a trip to the vet!