Christmas should be a time for festivities and fun, but dog owners must also be on their guard when it comes to possible dangers to their furry friends over the Christmas period.
The UK’s largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs, the Kennel Club, has some top tips for pet owners to help keep four-legged family members safe this season.
Dangerous for Dogs
Over the Christmas period many items are brought into the home which may be of great interest to a dog, from unusual plants and trees, to Christmas foods, jingly decorations and gift-wrapped presents. Whilst many are perfectly harmless, some can prove dangerous or even fatal to dogs.
At Christmas, dogs are four times more likely to be taken to the vets with chocolate poisoning than at any other time of the year. Each Christmas there are likely to be thousands of cases of dogs needing veterinary treatment after stealing chocolate Santas, selection boxes, advent calendars, edible tree decorations, wrapped chocolate presents, chocolate yule logs and chocolate oranges.
Even in small quantities some types of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can make dogs ill, so these must be kept out of reach of the family pet.
With so much going on over the festive season it’s not always easy for owners to keep an eye on their dog, but there are a few things they can do to reduce the risk of having to take an expensive trip to the vets:
- Keep advent calendars high up and out of reach.
- Don’t leave open boxes of chocolates unattended.
- Don’t hang chocolate decorations on the Christmas tree.
- Remember that even wrapped boxes of chocolates can be sniffed out and ‘opened’ by your dog.
- Talk to the whole family and any guests on how to avoid a Christmas chocolate canine catastrophe.
Vets are overloaded with cases of poisoning over Christmas as dogs tuck into a variety of unsuitable treats including foods containing raisins, currants and sultanas (such as Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, fruit cake, mince pies and stolen), as well as grapes, macadamia nuts, blue cheese and onions and other allium species (garlic, leeks, shallots and chives).
Mouldy foods, very rich, fatty foods and alcohol can also harm dogs, and owners should be wary of feeding them their Christmas dinner leftovers, as traditional turkey, goose and chicken bones can easily splinter, particularly when cooked, causing an obstruction and possibly even piercing the stomach or intestines.
Certain festive plants can cause varying degrees of stomach upset if eaten by a dog, including poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and ivy. Eating potpourri can also result in a tummy upset but may cause other more serious effects depending on which dried plants have been used in the mix. Most species of Christmas tree are relatively low-toxic, but the sharp needles and the oils within them can irritate a dog’s mouth and stomach or can cause an obstruction.
Christmas presents are often just as intriguing and exciting for dogs as they are for humans, but some can present a risk to four-legged friends. Electronic gifts and toys often contain batteries, which if chewed or swallowed by a dog can cause chemical burns or may cause an obstruction.
Other items which may obstruct a dog’s gut include small toys or gifts with small parts, wrapping paper or crepe paper, Christmas decorations, including baubles and tinsel hanging from the Christmas tree, and plastic materials used for wrapping presents. Signs of an obstruction in the gut can include vomiting, lethargy, a lack of interest in food, not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.
Care should be taken when using antifreeze products that contain the chemical ethylene glycol, which can be lethal when ingested by dogs. The sweet taste of antifreeze makes it tempting for dogs, so products should be stored in secure containers away from pets. If using antifreeze, owners must ensure that pets are kept well away and if any is spilt ensure that it is cleaned up.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary says: “There is no reason dogs can’t enjoy Christmas with their families just as much as their owners do, however we would thoroughly recommend being cautious and keeping anything that may pose a risk to your beloved family pet in a safe place and out of sight and smell of your dog.”
She adds: “If you believe your dog has eaten anything it shouldn’t have, seek veterinary advice immediately and let the vet know what your dog has eaten, when it ate it and how much was consumed. Never try and make your dog sick if it eats something it shouldn’t have, as this can make things worse. It is a good idea to treat your dog to a couple of new toys to play with during the festive period and to give them a good deal of exercise outside to keep them occupied and away from things that may cause them harm. This all makes for a very content canine Christmas!”
Pets Corner – PE1
Pets Corner in PE1 is an ethical pet store, with the main area of business being specialist natural pet foods, accessories and treatments. They also stock a wide range of great gift ideas for pets. From treats to festive fashion and toys to dog-friendly stocking fillers, there’s no better place to visit this Christmas!
For further advice on a carefree canine Christmas, visit Dogs at Christmas on the The Kennel Club’s website.