Keep your pet safe this Christmas

1st December 2017


At Bollington Veterinary Centre we’re always kept busy over the Christmas period with pet emergencies. As a result, we thought we’d highlight some of the more common risks resulting in animals being admitted over the festive period and suggest ways to avoid them.

1. Chocolate – lock it away

Chocolate poisoning is very common in dogs. It's also toxic to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and mice, so beware!  The amount of risk depends on how much and what type of chocolate is eaten. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous and white chocolate the least. Some of the signs we see include;

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Hyperactivity
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Convulsions (fits)

If you suspect or know that your pet has eaten chocolate, call us immediately. We need to know what type of chocolate, how much has been swallowed and when. It helps to make a note of the details before calling us.

2. Grapes, raisins and currants – the risks are real

These fruits have all been linked to kidney failure in dogs with some animals developing problems after eating just a handful of raisins. It's for this reason that we don't recommend Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies as they all contain grapes in one form or another.

3. Onions, garlic, leeks and chives - it's not just the smell

Onions can pose a particular risk to cats as they contain thiosulphate, a compound which can cause a serious form of anaemia in both dogs and cats. With all the cooking going on at Christmas it’s easy for household pets to be inadvertently fed this toxin. Similar problems can occur with shallots, garlic, leeks and chives. The take home message is avoid feeding scraps to your pet - stick to the safe and nutritious commercially prepared foods.

4. Overeating - it's best to avoid excess

At Christmas we all tend to eat far more than we need and end up feeling stuffed, bloated and uncomfortable. If our pets are offered too many trimmings and leftovers they’re prone to all sorts of troubles as well. Some of the unpleasant consequences we regularly see over the celebration period at Bollington Veterinary Centre include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea – sudden changes in diet are very likely to cause a digestive upset, with messy consequences.
  • Pancreatitis – high fat food for many cats and dogs will irritate the pancreas and cause serious problems.

5. Ban the bone

Over the years we’ve had many clients rushing their dog down to the surgery with a blockage caused by bones. Chop bones are easy to swallow but also lodge with regularity in the intestines, so it's best to avoid offering them to your pet. We also suggest you don’t feed your dog or cat chicken or turkey carcasses as the bones may split and penetrate the delicate gut lining. Some of the signs to look out for which might suggest a blockage include;

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hunched back
  • Tucked in the tummy
  • Listlessness
  • Pale dry gums
  • Not wanting to eat

If you notice any of these signs, or suspect a bone has been swallowed, call us in time, rather than waiting a few days as the problem will only get worse.

6. Chewing hazards

Dogs love to chew especially if they become stressed. All the Christmas visitors, late nights and food can result in your dog to becoming anxious. Destructive chewing behaviour can become one of the ways your pet reacts to these changes.

  • Take particular care to keep all electric cords and lights out of reach of your dog. Electrocution is a real risk at this time of year and is often fatal.
  • Keep the kitchen door closed when you’re not around or you’ll have your cat or dog all over the food in no time at all.
  • Don’t leave food Christmas presents under the Christmas tree. They will be irresistible.
  • Don’t dangle chocolate Christmas decorations from the tree if you’ve got a dog. They’ll be gone the second you’re not looking.

House rabbits are also keen to chew as they explore the home. Make sure electrical cables are kept out of reach all the time.

7. Poisonous plants

Some of the popular plants we keep in our homes at Christmas are also poisonous and include;

  • Mistletoe
  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Lilies
  • Daffodils

If you are at any stage worried that your pet has eaten something poisonous, don’t hesitate to contact us at Bollington Veterinary Centre. Let us know how much was eaten and find out if there is any relevant packaging or labels that may help us with identification.

Real Christmas trees can be poisonous to some animals and the oils can be an irritant, though in most cases they are not a great problem.

8. Xylitol - the sugar substitute

Hidden in so many foods, it’s a particular problem for dogs as it stimulates the release of insulin. This can cause a variety of signs relating to low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia. The signs to look out for include lethargy, weakness, incoordination, collapse and in extreme cases, seizures.

This sweetener is found in all sorts of food products as well as some toothpaste, so make sure you take a look at the labels.

9. Macadamia nuts

These are popular, healthy and taste delicious. However, in recent years there have been several cases of poisoning in dogs. Look for weakness, vomiting, tummy pain, shaking, pale gums and incoordination.

Whilst macadamia nuts aren’t fatal, it’s best to keep them out of reach incase your dog eats them.

10. Take care with tinsel, wrapping ribbon and toys

If eaten all of these can produce a particularly challenging and risky problem for our team to deal with. It can often end up with our vets having to perform surgery to remove the offending object. All animals are inquisitive and we see foreign objects in dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets. Some of the foreign bodies removed in the past include;

  • Long lengths of tinsel
  • Turkey or beef wrapping string
  • Soft teddy bear toys
  • Tinfoil used in the Christmas cooking
  • Cotton thread
  • Small batteries
  • Coal
  • Metal kebab skewers

We recommend you put everything away, or in the bin, as soon as possible. It’s not worth waiting for a problem to occur.

Whatever you are up to this Christmas, all of us at Bollington Veterinary Centre wish you a happy and safe Christmas. Don’t forget we are always here to help, so if you have worries or need to talk, call us.

Contact us in an emergency