Christmas is great, isn’t it? In my house, it’s carnage for 2 weeks- chocolate melted underfoot, tinsel nicely caught in my hoover, boxes of toys and their associated plethora of cable ties and batteries everywhere... (bah humbug) and that’s just my husband!! At Christmas time in all vet clinics, we see a sharp increase of injuries and illnesses. There are a few things we can all think about at this time of year to reduce a visit to the vet and keep our furry companions happy and healthy during the festive period.
FOOD There are some foods which, whilst delicious for us, for our four legged friends can cause serious illness and even death Chocolate- milk and dark chocolate contain a substance called Theobromine. Even small amounts can cause severe illness and poisoning. A 25g bar of dark chocolate can be extremely poisonous to a small dog! Turkey- The bones from our joint of meat or turkey snaffled off the worktop can have dangerous consequences- Cooked bones are brittle and can lodge in the mouth or throat. They can get stuck in the stomach or intestines and easily pierce these delicate organs which can be fatal. NEVER give your pets bones to eat from a roast. Mince pies- mince pies contain raisins which even in very small amounts can cause irreversible kidney failure. The same goes for grapes. For some dogs, eating even one grape can have disasterous consequences. We don’t know exactly why this happens or why some dogs are affected whilst others aren’t. Don’t take the risk. Onions/leeks/garlic/chives- These are part of the Allium family and can cause damage to red blood cells causing severe anaemia( lack of red blood cells) This can be fatal in dogs. Dried and powdered versions as just as toxic. Sweets- Some sweets/chewing gum, sweeteners and sugar free peanut butter can contain a substance called XYLITOL. This can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar levels in dogs. This can cause seizures and liver failure. Symptoms can develop in as little as 60 mins after eating it.
FUNNY TUMMIES In addition to these, too many treats and fatty foods can lead to a condition called Pancreatitis. The pancreas is an important organ in the body which makes insulin and other substances to help with the breakdown and digestion of food. When it becomes inflamed, it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and dehydration amongst other symptoms. These patients often need to be hospitalised to treat them. Stick to their normal diet as much as possible to avoid upset tummies.
DECORATIONS Over the years, I have removed pieces of tinsel and string from more cat’s stomachs than I can count. Cats love the sparkly string- like texture of these decorations and can easily swallow them. They can become wrapped around the base of the tongue and cause blockages in the intestine.
PLANTS Poinsetta, Mistletoe, Holly, Rosemary can be toxic to our pets. Lilies deserve a special mention as the pollen,petals, stamen and leaves can be particularly poisonous to cats and can cause fatal kidney failure. Christmas trees aren’t poisonous but can release sap from their branches which can irritate the mouth. ANTIFREEZE This is a wellknown poison to cats. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which once ingested, can progress to life threatening kidney damage. Often, the symptoms are not noticed until a few days after ingestion and by this stage, it is often too late to save our patients.
VISITORS At Christmas, the house is often filled with visitors, music and different smells and noises for our pets. Putting up the tree and all the festivities are fun for us, but for our pets these can cause stress and anxiety. This can manifest itself in behaviour changes such as hiding, vocalising, chewing and soiling the house. Cats can urinate in inappropriate places due to stress. Try to reduce stress levels by making a safe space with their favourite blanket and toys for your pet which allows them to retreat if they are feeling overwhelmed. Giving your pet interesting toys and food-puzzles to distract them can help. If your pet gets stressed at Christmas, there are some natural pet remedies you can use and if you are worried about how your pet is going to cope over the holidays, make sure you speak to your vet for additional advice. Christmas is a time to be enjoyed by all in the household and our pets are no exception. By being aware of our surroundings we can all have a happier, less stressful Christmas!
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