As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it’s probably time to plan ahead to minimise the chance of a Christmas Day spent in our waiting room… which, tragically, is something that happens all too often. So, in this blog, we’re going to look at the Seven Christmas Safety Rules for Pets!
1) Make sure the Christmas Tree is VERY firmly fixed to something solid
Cats seem to have a real thing for Christmas trees, especially younger cats and older kittens! Unfortunately, some are less agile than they think they are - and this can result in a tree collapsing, and sometimes a rather startled cat being somersaulted across the living room.
We occasionally see similar problems with dogs leaning on the tree and knocking it over, so we’d strongly advise you to put the tree in a solid holder or pot, and tie the trunk to something solid to prevent swaying or falling.
2) Ensure no chocolates are left unsupervised
As you probably know, chocolate is toxic to dogs (and cats, although they’re usually less interested). The toxic ingredient is called theobromine, and while harmless in humans, can cause restlessness, vomiting, tremors, abnormal heartbeats and even occasionally seizures in dogs. In addition, eating large quantities of chocolate (even the less toxic white chocolate) can lead to pancreatitis. Although both conditions are usually treatable, they generally require hospitalisation and intensive care nursing, which isn’t a nice way to spend Christmas!
3) All Christmas decorations must be high up and out of reach
Cats are often attracted to sparkly things like tinsel or baubles which can get wrapped around them causing surprising amounts of harm. In addition, some cats have a thing for swallowing ribbons, tinsel and string; unfortunately, these “linear foreign bodies” then act as cheese-wires in the intestines.
Dogs may face the same risks, but are more prone to try and swallow things like baubles - which can obstruct the gut, or even shatter causing internal bleeding. Dogs are also prone to either nibble or wee on Christmas trees and decorations - but if they hit the electric lights it can be rather unpleasant for all concerned! To keep everyone safe, make sure the decorations are out of nibbling (or weeing) range.
4) Keep festive plants out of nose-range
Some festive plants are moderately toxic, especially poinsettia, holly and mistletoe. If eaten, these irritate the mouth, stomach and intestines, causing drooling, mouth-rubbing, vomiting and diarrhoea. Mistletoe berries are a little more toxic, and can lead to heart problems too, so make sure there’s no opportunity to sample the foliage!
5) Christmas foodstuffs must NEVER find their way into the dog
Other than chocolate, there are a wide range of human foods that frequently cause poisoning in dogs. These include raisins, currants and sultanas, which can cause kidney failure; peanuts which can lead to salt poisoning (“drunkenness”, seizures, coma and sometimes brain damage), or vomiting and diarrhoea; and macadamia nuts which can lead to multiple organ failure. So, Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies should be definitively off the menu, as should nut selections. In addition, dogs and cats don’t cope with alcohol as well as people and easily develop alcohol poisoning - unfortunately, some develop a real taste for it, so it’s up to you to keep them safe.
6) Leftovers should be eaten by people or recycled, not fed to pets
While a small amount of cooked turkey is unlikely to be harmful (and will be very popular!) it takes several days for a dog’s or cat’s digestive system to adapt to new foods. As a result, a sudden glut of rich festive food is often followed by horrible gastroenteritis with the food re-emerging from both ends… For the sake of the pet, the family, and the carpets, be careful!
However, there is one part of the festive bird that should never be fed - cooked bones. Dogs and cats crunch on them thinking they’re fresh, but they tend to shatter, and can lead to intestinal perforations and severe internal injuries.
7) Don’t try to give your pets hangover cures
We hope this is obvious… But never, ever give pets human medicines. Paracetamol, for example, is lethally toxic to cats; and ibuprofen can cause kidney failure in dogs. If your pet is ill, call us and get some proper, safe, medication.
If at any point you’re worried about your pet, give us a call - one of our vets is always on call and will be able to see you if there are any concerns, even over the Christmas holidays!
We’d like to wish you and all your pets a happy and healthy Christmas holiday!