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How to keep your pet healthy during Christmas

There are many household objects that are poisonous or harmful to animals, and at Christmas this is something that you will need to be aware of. As with other festivals throughout the year, there is a lot going on at Christmas and can get overwhelming for your pets as well as yourself. If pets are not supervised properly and they get hold of something they shouldn’t it may mean an unexpected trip to the vets. Noted in this article are food, drink, plants and objects that your pet may encounter over Christmas.

Christmas pudding, Cake & Mince Pies

These all contain copious amounts of raisins, currants and sultanas. Raisins, currants and sultanas are all toxic to dogs – however not all dogs who ingest raisins, currants and sultanas experience the side effects. Eating these can cause severe kidney damage leading to acute kidney failure with lack of urine production. Vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, dehydration and seizures.

The most common treatment for raisin, currant and sultana ingestion is to make your pet vomit – if your pet is made to vomit quickly after eating the raisins, currants and sultanas this usually cures it, however if a particularly large amount has been consumed or if it has been a few hours since being eaten, your pet may need to stay with your vets over night for some intravenous fluids to help flush any toxins out of your pets’ kidneys.

Chocolate

Chocolate is tasty to us all! – Even our pets! Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. These two ingredients can lead to various medical complications and may even prove fatal to your pets. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle rigidity, rapid breathing (not panting), seizures and advanced signs include heart failure, weakness and coma.

Bones

With all the extra meat we are cooking over the festive season it is no wonder our 4-legged friends are excited for extra treats, however as we’ve covered before, human food for dogs is far from ideal for our pets! Once bones are cooked they become brittle and splinter very easily. The most common way our pets manage to get cooked bones, is if they raid bins overnight or if they manage to take food from tables. Large fragments of bone can get stuck, causing obstructions in the bowel and stomach – smaller splinters can cause gut irritation and/or perforation.

The best thing to do is ensure that all carcasses and cooked bones and placed in a sealed bin or food waste store away from the reach of your pets.  As an end note – birds such as turkeys, chickens and geese all have hollow bones. Their bones splinter whether they are raw or cooked so these must never be given under any circumstances.

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Nuts

While not all nuts are toxic to dogs, they can cause nasty symptoms if eaten over the Christmas period. Large nuts such as walnuts are at risk of causing gastric obstruction if swallowed whole. Almonds, pecans, pistachio and macadamia nuts are all tasty to dogs, (in particular pistachio and macadamia as they have a very high fat content) however they can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and they also carry the risk of gastric obstruction or perforation if swallowed whole.

Macadamia nuts have also been known to cause neurological symptoms that last 12-18 hours. The hard shells of these nuts can also damage your pets’ teeth, often leading to dental fractures if munched on!

Alcohol

Everybody may enjoy a cheeky drink over Christmas, this does not include our pets! Alcohol soaked fruit cakes, Christmas puddings and even Santa’s night-time tipple can cause issues for our pets. Common symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs include drooling, vomiting, bloated stomach, weakness, collapse, increased heart rate, hypothermia and coma.

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Scraps and Titbits

We all love treating our pets throughout the year, and Christmas should be no exception! However, titbits including turkey, chicken or goose skin, roast potatoes and other fatty foods have the potential to cause tummy upsets and pancreatitis. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, abdominal pain, depression and increased heart rate.

Onions, Leeks & Garlic

These are all poisonous to dogs and cats. Garlic is considered to be about 5 times more potent than onions! Onion, leek and garlic poisoning results in damage to red blood cells and gastroenteritis. Symptoms of onion, leek or garlic poisoning are vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, abdominal pain, increased heart rate and respiration rate, pale gums and collapse.

Mouldy food AKA Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are poisonous substances produced by fungi and mould that grows on spoiled food. These are toxic to pets, and pose a particular problem to our bin raiding furry friends! Common symptoms of mycotoxin poisoning in dogs are vomiting, diarrhoea, disorientation, restlessness, tremors, seizures, hyperthermia, jaundiced gums and eye lids and abdominal pain. If left untreated, mycotoxin poisoning can be fatal.

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Holly

This is a substance that is a low toxicity but can still be harmful to your pet as the spikey leaves may cause damage if eaten and the berries can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. So if you are wanting to decorate with this plant keep it well away from your pets!

Mistletoe

This is a plant that is considered to be low of toxicity but the berries can cause stomach upset if ingested. This is a fun thing to have in the house during party season but make sure it is clear of reach for your pets and cannot cause them any harm.

Ivy

This vine can cause stomach upset if ingested. It can also cause severe irritation or allergic dermatitis if prolonged skin contact takes place.

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Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is considered to be low toxicity but can be irritating to the mouth or stomach if the needles are ingested. It can also cause excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea. The needles can also be sharp which could cause physical damage.

Decorations – Tinsel, Fairy lights, Wreaths and more!

Decorations are fun to look at and for our pets they are also fun to play with! Tinsel is very pretty to look at on the tree and around your home, however if your pet was to get a hold of it, it may be an unexpected trip to the vets! Tinsel can cause blockages in the digestive system and can also cause the small intestine to telescope into itself which can only be fixed by surgical intervention. It’s best that this is kept as far out of the way as possible and your pets stick to playing with their own toys.

Wreaths can contain all of the above which are all hazards so should be secured on the door tightly so pets cannot get to it and when storing it away or being finished with it at the end of Christmas it should be disposed of appropriately and carefully so there is no change of your pet getting a hold of it. Fairy Lights are also pretty to look at but can cause damage to the pet if they are swallowed or chewed! These are another thing to keep out of reach.

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Wrapping paper

Wrapping paper is great to make presents look nice and hide the surprise within, but when it has all been torn off the present and is just left lying this on the floor this is when it becomes a hazard to the pet. If a large amount is ingested this can cause blockage in the pet and could result in surgical intervention.

Ribbons

Ribbons are pretty to look at and make the present look very appealing however if ingested these can have the same effect as tinsel, they can cause the intestines to bunch up and cause pain for your pet, this would require surgical intervention to remove and your pet and yourself a lot of stress!

Toys

What child doesn’t love a toy! Our pets love their toys too. However pet toys are certainly different to human toys. Human toys can have small pieces attached that if ingested can cause obstruction and other difficulties.

Pet toys are made specifically with soft materials that cannot cause much of a problem this is why their toys are different to ours. You wouldn’t let your baby swallow a small toy piece so don’t let your pet!

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Batteries

Batteries can be harmful if they are chewed and punctured. They can cause chemical burns or even in extreme cases they could cause heavy metal poisoning. If the battery is swallowed whole they are less likely to leak but can still cause a blockage. If this was to happen surgical intervention may be required.

Signs of obstruction could be being off their food, vomiting, lethargy, or finding it difficult to breathe. If a button battery became stuck in the digestive system it is possible it could produce an electric current which can significantly damage the surrounding tissue.

Silica gel Sachets

These are the sachets you find in packaging of items like new shoes, electrical items, handbags etc. this is non-toxic, although it is labelled do not eat and this is because they are a non-food item, and if ingested they can cause a dangerous obstruction in the gut.

People coming over & Carollers knocking at the door

The final thing that you should bear in mind is if there are lots of people coming into your house or that may be knocking on your door this could cause a large amount of stress for your pet. A way to reduce this is to have a room specifically for them where they have a bed and a chill area they can escape too if needed. Use pheromones to help relax your pet, these can be bought at your vets. If you’re pet is a very stress pet consult your vets on what the best procedure may be.

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