Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, but there are just a few hazardous that pet owners should be aware of to limit the number of trips to the vets….
Chocolate can be very poisonous to pets. It contains theobromine that can be fatal. First signs of chocolate poisoning are vomiting and diarrhoea, followed by heart problems and seizures. Contact the vet ASAP if you are concerned that your pet has eaten chocolate. Try and make a note of the type of chocolate eaten and the amount as those bits of information will be important when calculating if your pet has consumed a poisonous amount…
Although guilty of it ourselves at Christmas, over-indulgence should not extend to our pets. It is best to stick to their normal feeding regime as any change in diet can cause gastrointestinal upsets. Furthermore, overfeeding can be dangerous, especially a big meal just before energetic play or exercise. This can make your dog prone to a gastric torsion (twisting and swelling of the stomach), which is a life-threatening emergency.
COLD AND WET WEATHER:
If your dog is coming in from a cold and wet walk, ensure you dry them off with a towel or if necessary a hair dryer on a low settings held at a distance. Extra care needs to be taken with older dogs and those in ill health in winter weather conditions.
Salt on pavements at this time of year (hmm…heatwave anyone??) can cause irritation to pads. Applying Vaseline and washing them with warm water after walks can help reduce the risk of irritation.
Don’t forgot our hutched animals in winter. Make sure they are still checked daily and have plenty of fresh food, water and bedding. Placing the hutches in shelter or undercover goes some way to reducing the wind chill factor. Make sure their water supply does not get frozen over.
Antifreeze is a major hazard associated with this time of year. It is sweet and so very palatable to pets. Please ensure it is kept secure and out of bounds. Any old anti-freeze should be disposed of safely and straight away. Spillages from car maintenance should be swilled down and diluted as soon as possible. Poisoning with anti-freeze can be fatal and required immediate veterinary attention.
Holly berries, poinsettia and mistletoe can all be poisonous to pets – ensure all these plants are high up out of reach and pick up any berries or fallen leaves off the floor and out of curious pet’s mouths!
Bones can be very dangerous if fed to pets, especially cooked bones, as they can splinter and cause massive internal damage. Do not be tempted to treat your pet with turkey bones this Christmas – they are just to brittle and small.
DECORATIONS & WRAPPING:
Take care to supervise your pets around wrapping paper, decorations and presents. These can pose a risk of poisoning or chocking incidents, and may even get stuck in the stomach or intestines. All of these are life threatening. Try to keep smaller items out of reach, eg. keep baubles off the lower branches of your tree, make sure batteries are in a cupboard.
GRAPES, RAISINS & SULTANAS:
The above are all toxic to your pet. Therefore please take care with mince pies, Christmas cake and pudding and anything else with these ingredients. other food items that can be dangerous to your pet include onions and garlic, peanuts and macadamia nuts. If in doubt, just stick to your pet’s normal diet and either give them pet treats if you feel the need, or save a bit of their main meals to give them as treats.
Alcohol, especially if sweet, can be very palatable to pets. Ensure alcohol is not left around where pets can reach it. This includes any food items, such as Christmas pudding, which may contain it.
The Christmas period can be a very busy one with friends and families coming and going from the home. Be mindful that your pets may not be used to many people, or increased noises so make sure they have a safe, quiet place they can retreat to if necessary. We often hear the influx of the grandchildren into the home causes the cat to seek shelter under a bed and not come out – this is fine, the cat is utilising a coping mechanism to deal with a stressful situation – just make sure Tiddles has everything they need – food, water and litter tray within easy access from the hidey area (imagine having to run the gauntlet of many fearful things while needing the loo!). Dogs and cats benefit from artificial pheromones which are available as plug in diffusers – Adaptil and Feliway. Get these plugged in near your pet’s hide out and this will ease their stress levels.
We would strongly advise against choosing or buying an animal on impulse at Christmas. Pets should NEVER be given as a present. Taking on a pet is a big responsibility and something that legally requires duty of care. The cost of a healthy dog can be at least £1000 per year and a cat £700, factoring not just vet bills, but general feeding and activity enrichments aswell.
Small pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits are often given as pets to children. This is not advisable as they still require careful husbandry and upkeep and can life for many years.
Finally, spare a thought for the animals that do not have a home this Christmas. At all our surgeries there are donation boxes for money, food, bedding and toys which are distributed between numerous animal charities in the Warwickshire area. These donated items and funds help these charities to function throughout the year against overwhelming numbers of abandoned animals. Please give if you can.
So a lot of things to be aware of, but please don’t be down heartened! We are just trying to avoid some of the common problems that can occur this time of year. If you are a client of ours and you are worried over the holidays when our surgeries are closed. Just call your local surgery and follow the message instructions on how to page our vet on call. They will be more than happy to talk to you if you are worried or arrange to see you on our Hillmorton or Leamington Spa surgeries.
Have a happy and safe Christmas and New Year! Enjoy yourselves and love your pets!