Christmas is an exciting period for everyone including our pets! Every year we bring lots of exciting new things into our homes, from gifts to decorations and of course, food. All these new smells and fun things to play with are just as exciting for our pets!
However, while we all enjoy the Christmas period, it can also be quite a dangerous time for pets and unfortunately every year, we have a couple of Christmas casualties. Many of our clients are surprised when we tell them about the everyday hazards our pets can encounter at Christmas, so to ensure that your pet is kept safe over the holiday season, we have highlighted some of the most common below.
Let’s start with the most common toxin that pets get exposed at Christmas time, chocolate!!
Chocolate and cocoa powder contains theobromine and is highly toxic for both dogs and cats. Although we rarely see cats eating chocolate, we can’t say the same for dogs! Every year we have a number of canine visitors to the clinic, whose worried owners have spotted their furry friends ingesting chocolate. Depending on the amount and type of chocolate this can be fatal; the darker the chocolate, the more toxic! Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can be vomiting, twitching, tremors and fitting within a few hours; but later stages can cause organ failure. So make sure those chocolate boxes are out of reach before you leave the room!
Raisins, grapes, currants and sultanas are another common Christmas problem. These are everywhere at Christmas time! Many Christmas recipes contain them and our pets seem to love them too but unfortunately, even one grape can cause devastating damage to our pets. There is no correlation between the amount ingested and the severity of the symptoms; this means that some dogs might not show any signs of intoxication, while others that ingested the same amount might develop vomiting, diarrhoea or kidney failure. It is also common for a dog to ingest one of these in the past with no symptoms but the next time have a reaction, even with the smallest amount.
Another surprising source of food toxins are all forms of onion and garlic. These can be toxic for both dogs and cats in all their forms, meaning if they are cooked or mixed in other foods they still pose a risk to our pets. Onions and garlic can damage the red blood cells causing anaemia and, in severe cases this could also be fatal.
Finally, don’t forget the plants! Mistletoe, Ivy and Lilies, are all commonly found at Christmas time and are all highly toxic to our pets, although some are more dangerous than others. While Mistletoe and Ivy can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting, Lilies can cause seizures and be fatal. Best to keep those up high and away from any easy accessible spots.
These items represent a risk for our pets not because they are toxic (with the exception of a few) but because they can get stuck in their gastrointestinal system and cause a blockage that requires surgery to be removed.
The perpetrators? Toys and Christmas decorations! Every year we fill our homes with beautiful decorations and often, new toys for children. We would always advise to just be mindful of the size and material the toys are made of, and where they could end up if found by some furry paws!
Wrapping paper, although this is not usually toxic for pets, the ingestion of large amounts can cause an obstruction in their stomachs. Surprisingly, ribbons can be one of the worst offenders; if swallowed they can cause extensive damage to the intestines and may result in large sections needing to be removed.
Silica gel sachets, these are commonly found in gifts and are designed to help keep out moisture. While they do not represent any toxic risk for our pets if ingested, they are a common cause of blockages and therefore put your pets life at risk.
Finally candles are another item that can be found in the house the whole year round but are particularly common at Christmas. They fill our homes with a lovely scent and flicker away on these cozy winter night, but those various fragrances can also be very appealing to our dogs and cats. Most commonly they also represent a choking hazard and could potentially obstruct their gastrointestinal system.
What to do if my pet ingests any of the above…
Contact your vet immediately! We offer out of hours care provided by Vets Now, just to make sure you have a trustworthy vet to speak to if the worst should happen. If you are ever in doubt, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and one of our team can advise on whether action needs to be taken. Most of these hazards above can be treated successfully if your pet receives medical attention quickly. So if you catch your furry family members, tucking into something they shouldn’t, do not wait for the symptoms to appear, were on hand to help.