The holiday season is a busy and fun filled time for all the household, but did you know it can also bring lots of hidden dangers for our four-legged family members?
This blog highlights some common seasonal items that you may not realise are a potential problem. Make a note of them as we move through December, and ensure that a trip to the vet isn’t part of your festivities!
We hope these tips help you to keep your pet safe over the festive season, and we wish you and your furry friends a very Happy Holidays!
Dog owners, did you know that grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants (and any foods that contain them) are all potentially toxic to dogs and eating them could lead to kidney failure and even death? So, no mince pies, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding for your dog, and ensure they are kept out of reach so that they cannot scavenge them when you are not looking!
Fatty foods are not well tolerated by dogs and cats. They can give your pet an upset stomach, may lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, and can even cause pancreatitis (a very serious condition where the pancreas has become inflamed). Long-term, feeding your pet foods that contain too many calories could also cause them to become overweight, which leads to many different health issues for them. So please don’t be tempted to share your festive dinner; if you do want to spoil them on the day why not plan ahead and give them a small healthy treat instead.
It is widely known that chocolate is poisonous to both dogs and cats, affecting their heart, and their respiratory and nervous systems. If enough is consumed it can even cause death. The poisonous ingredient in chocolate is called theobromine, and the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. There is likely to be much more chocolate around at this time of year, so ensure that it is not fed to your pets and that it is stored away safely out of their reach. If your pet consumes even just a small amount of any kind of chocolate, please call your vet immediately for advice.
Xylitol is a common artificial sweetener that is often found in sweets as well as in sugar-free chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, vitamin supplements, and other ‘low sugar’ or sugar-free products. Xylitol is poisonous to dogs, causing their blood sugar levels to plummet as well as possible liver damage. Even small amounts can be fatal, so early veterinary intervention is crucial. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, lethargy and convulsions (seizures or fits). Make sure to keep all those Christmas sweets well out of the reach to keep your pet safe.
Did you know that onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives (which all belong to the Allium group of plants) are poisonous to dogs? Symptoms of ingestion can include vomiting and diarrhoea but the main effect is damage to red blood cells (which carry oxygen around your dog’s body), resulting in anaemia. This may not be apparent for several days after ingestion. Remember many festive foods like gravy, stuffing and sausages can also contain these ingredients.
If you are having turkey or chicken for your festive dinner there may well be some bones left over. However, these (or in fact any cooked bones) can be very dangerous and should never be given to pets. All types of bones when cooked become extremely brittle and can easily splinter or break into sharp shards. If consumed, cooked bone may cause choking, an obstruction (blockage) or a perforation (hole) in the gut, which can be fatal.
LEFTOVERS AS HORSE TREATS
You may already be aware that parsnips, apples, carrots, bananas and celery (as a low sugar option), are all healthy horsey treats when given in moderation. However, did you know that you should avoid foods that tend to produce intestinal gas or that belong to the nightshade family. These include onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and Brussels sprouts! So, make sure you reserve them solely for your own dinner table!
Whilst many of us may enjoy a festive tipple, our pets definitely do not! Even a small amount of alcohol can cause intoxication with signs generally beginning 30 – 60 minutes after consumption; these include vomiting, diarrhoea, depression or sleepiness, tremors, breathing problems, wobbliness and disorientation. In severe cases, body temperature and blood sugar levels can drop, which may result in a coma or even be fatal. During the holiday season we may be more likely to drink cream-based liqueurs or cocktails which are especially appealing to your pet; in addition, food items such as brandy butter, certain desserts and fermenting bread dough are all possible sources too. It’s essential all items containing alcohol are hidden away, to prevent pets helping themselves. See also the information on antifreeze as this too contains alcohol.
Just a teaspoonful of antifreeze can be lethal for a cat and it’s also toxic for dogs too; because it often tastes sweet, they can be drawn to drink it. The active ingredient in antifreeze ‘ethylene glycol’ is an alcohol and is rapidly absorbed into the body after drinking; it triggers signs to appear from as little as 30 minutes after ingestion. The general signs are as with alcohol toxicity (see above) but kidney failure, which may take 2 – 3 days to show, is common and can be fatal. Ethylene glycol can be found after leaks of water coolant or after spillage of anti-freeze containing products when filling up cars. So, ensure all spillages, no matter how small, are cleaned up quickly and thoroughly as the antifreeze can get on pets’ paws and be absorbed, or be ingested as they clean themselves. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to antifreeze, please call your vet immediately, even if they seem fine.
The substance used to de-ice roads and pavements, known as grit or rock salt, contains sodium chloride (salt). If cats and dogs get it on their feet or body, it can cause irritation and they are likely to lick it off and ingest it. Consuming too much salt can result in a high blood sodium concentration and this can lead to vomiting, lethargy, convulsions and kidney damage. If they have been out and about in areas where salt has been spread, it is a good idea to wipe their paws and the fur on their legs and tummy. Also, be aware that it could be consumed by drinking puddles of melted snow.
Once the excitement of present opening has come to an end, toys are often left around the house as the day’s celebrations continue. Dogs, especially puppies, might take an interest in a novel toy they haven’t seen before. Small parts can cause choking or be swallowed and lead to blockages, and larger toys may be chewed up and cause similar problems, as well as mouth injuries if there are any sharp parts. Try your best to keep an eye on where children leave their new toys, and keep them away from inquisitive mouths.
The festive season often means new toys and gadgets appearing in our homes, some of which will require batteries. Batteries should always be kept out of reach of pets because if chewed or swallowed, they can cause severe chemical burns, both around the mouth and internally, which can be fatal. In addition, the battery could cause choking, act as an obstruction (blockage) in the gut or cause metal poisoning. Even the tiny coin-shaped disc batteries pose a risk, so keep all batteries stored safely in a place inaccessible to pets.
Dogs and cats are curious creatures and may try to chew fairy lights or their cables, which can injure their mouths, burn or even electrocute them! Make sure to keep cables out of sight and safely cover them so they are inaccessible. Fairy lights can also be a hazard to horses, as well as a potential fire risk around hay, straw and shavings. Make sure that any lights used around stables are made for outdoor use and that all of your lights are of the appropriate approved safety standard.
Did you know that poinsettia, holly, ivy and mistletoe are all toxic to both cats and dogs? Whilst kissing under the mistletoe may be romantic for us, it can be dangerous for our pets; eating it has been associated with vomiting, diarrhoea, shock, breathing and heart problems and it can even result in their death.
Tinsel is one of the decorations that cats like to play with most. They like to bat at it, pull it down, and especially to chew on it. Chewing on it can lead to a risk of choking or swallowing pieces. Tinsel can cause serious illness if it gets stuck in their intestines and, in some cases, this may even be fatal. Curious horses could also ingest tinsel strands, causing a gastric obstruction. So, make sure to keep tinsel out of your animal’s reach!
Candles can create a lovely festive atmosphere but especially if you have a bouncy or curious pet in the house, they can become a serious danger! Dogs and cats can burn paws, whiskers or even their noses on candles, and wagging tails could knock them over, causing a fire hazard. Please remember burning candles should never be left unattended and they should always be extinguished when you leave the room. If you are going to have candles alight, ensure they are out of reach of pets, children and dangling decorations that might catch fire if pulled down by a playful pet!
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