Now we are on the busy countdown to Christmas, planning, shopping, wrapping presents and cooking, our thoughts may not always be on our pets, and just how hazardous this time of the year can be for them. Their usual comfy environment is changing, as their owners introduce trees, decorations, unusual flowers and not to mention the tempting food and drink products that are gradually filling our store cupboards. Visits to the Vets increase quite alarmingly during the festive season, usually as a result of a pet chewing or swallowing something unfamiliar.
Christmas is a time of celebration, fun and indulging, and if you’re like me, as our dogs are a part of our family, they will be enjoying some of the treats too.
Here we suggest some handy tips on hazards that you may wish to prevent your dog from coming into contact with, for a safe, happy and worry-free Christmas time.
12 festive hazards that could ruin your Dog’s Christmas:
On the First day of Christmas…. One Christmas tree
Pine Trees that shed their needles will not only cause cuts to his mouth but may also give your dog a mild stomach upset if eaten or in more severe cases, can perforate his intestines. The oils from the pine tree can be irritating to his stomach and mouth, causing excessive vomiting or drooling. If your real tree is standing in a pot of water, make sure that your dog or cat cannot drink any, as there could be contaminants of preservatives or fertilisers present in the stagnant water. Of course no one wants to give up their festive tree, so to avoid needles falling, keep the Christmas tree watered and vacuum around it daily. You could perhaps consider an artificial tree this year.
On the Second day of Christmas…..Two Glass baubles
Christmas ornaments hanging on the tree are a temptation to pets, but when knocked from the tree can break into tiny glass shards. If eaten, tiny pieces can cause not only irritation, but blockages or perforation of the stomach. It’s best to choose shatter-proof decorations, or those made from pet-friendly products. Remember too, that if you have any handmade salt dough decorations, these have been made with large amounts of salt and flour and are potentially fatal if eaten by your dog, causing salt toxicosis. Symptoms will show as seizures, sickness and diarrhoea. If you must have them on your tree, place then high up well out of your pet’s reach.
On the Third day of Christmas…..Three Metres of Tinsel
Our pets are attracted to tinsel because of its shiny texture. A dog will pull at and eat a string of tinsel just like a human eats spaghetti, working its way through his stomach and intestines, causing a serious blockage. Don’t even consider wrapping tinsel around your dog’s neck, no matter how charming it looks, to prevent a choking hazard. Playful puppies love to pull and chew so ensure that playtimes are fully supervised when your Christmas decorations are on display.
On the Fourth day of Christmas …..Four Strings of Fairy Lights
Dogs are natural scavengers, and will try to eat anything and everything. They explore things with their mouths, and really don’t understand the dangers of anything they attempt to chew. A brightly lit string of fairy lights dangling from the tree will certainly be attractive to a curious pet, yet if he chews through the cord, he may get a sudden electric shock. If possible, invest in an extension cord or a circuit breaker plug that will shut off the power automatically, if damaged. Tape all loose wires to the skirting board or carpet so your pet has limited access.\
On the Fifth day of Christmas….Five Rolls of Wrapping Paper
Although your dog isn’t likely to be poisoned by eating shiny paper, swallowing any large amount could cause a stomach obstruction. Recycle any used wrapping paper well out of your dog’s reach and remember not to leave any wrapped chocolates or edible gifts under the Christmas tree. Just like us humans who eat when we are bored, your pet will surely sniff them out and demolish before your very eyes. When wrapping your gifts, take care that any small sachets of silica gel, usually found in packaging, don’t fall onto the floor where they can quickly be chewed and swallowed by your pooch. Although non-toxic, they may cause a gut obstruction that requires emergency veterinary treatment.
On the Sixth day of Christmas….Six Macadamia Nuts
Although very delicious, Macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to dogs, causing neurological problems, pain, limb lameness and even seizures. Be conscious that chopped nuts are often found in food ingredients, or in cookies too. If nuts are swallowed whole, there is a high chance of throat obstruction or bowel blockage. Other nuts, such as pistachios or almonds, may also cause a stomach upset but are not quite as toxic if eaten by your pet.
On the Seventh day of Christmas….Seven Mince Pies
Many traditional Christmas foods, such as mince pies, Christmas pudding and Stollen cake, all contain sultanas, currants and raisins which are very toxic to pets if eaten. Over 25 million Christmas puddings are sold every year, yet your pet eating even a small amount can result in severe kidney failure. Remember too, that raisins coated in chocolate pose an additional risk of chocolate toxins. Keep well out of their reach, and if any leftovers, dispose of them carefully well away from your dog’s reach.
On the Eighth day of Christmas….Eight bottles of beer
As we celebrate Christmas most of us like a tipple of festive cheer but never be tempted to offer any alcohol, beer or wine to your dog. The alcohol content is much more toxic to animals than to humans, even though they may become drowsy or wobbly, just like their human owners. Symptoms in your pet may be catastrophic, so look out for difficulty breathing, vomiting, tremors and even coma or death.
On the Ninth day of Christmas….Nine Christmas Plants
We decorate our homes with Christmas plants, such as holly and ivy, and many other flowering plants are given as gifts. Lilies are of a greater toxic risk to cats than to dogs, but it’s advisable not to have them in your home and if you do, certainly place them out of reach. Poinsettias can bring on a severe reaction if eaten, and mistletoe, ivy and holly are all toxic if ingested. Gifts of plant bulbs, such as narcissus and amaryllis may be toxic to your pets, bringing about side effects such as convulsions, earthy, excess salivation and vomiting. Don’t delay in contacting your Vet if you suspect your dog or cat have eaten any bulbs.
On the Tenth day of Christmas….Ten Selection Boxes of chocolate
Who doesn’t like a feast of chocolate at this time of the year? We hang chocolate decorations on the tree, wrap boxes of continental chocolates to give as gifts, and most children will have an advent calendar containing miniature sweet treats. Over £250 million is spent on buying confectionary treats in the two weeks before Christmas. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine yet it’s very poisonous to dogs and should be avoided at all costs. Avoid putting any chocolates, wrapped or not under your Christmas tree, to avoid temptation for your four legged friend.
If you suspect your dog has consumed more than a tiny amount of chocolate, contact your Vet to seek urgent advice.
On the Eleventh day of Christmas….Eleven sack fulls of toys
Although in general, toys and games aren’t going to be much of a hazard to your pet, anything that looks appealing to them may be chewed and swallowed. Monitor your children opening their gifts, and remove any small items out of your pet’s reach. Many toys contain batteries, which makes it more common for dog’s to eat them at Christmas time. Symptoms can include heavy metal poisoning, chemical burns and blockages.
If you own a snow globe, be cautious as some of the imported models may contain antifreeze, another highly toxic substance for your pet if ingested.
And on the Twelfth day of Christmas….A very lovely, tasty Christmas Day Lunch
We all look forward to this christmas feast, and your dog will too, especially when he smells the joint cooking in the oven. If you do decide to feed your dog some cooked, white meat from the turkey or chicken, take care to remove any bones which are a hazard if swallowed, causing an obstruction or piercing in your dog’s digestive tract. When lunch is over, make sure you dispose of any meat carcass into an outside bin, well away from worktops where your pet can reach while you are out visiting the relatives.
If you are having onions as an accompaniment to your lunch, in the gravy or stuffing, don’t be tempted to feed any morsels to the dog. These belong to the Alium plant species, and are toxic to animals whether eaten cooked or uncooked. Anaemia, damage to the red blood cells and stomach irritation can all arise from eating even small amounts. Health problems may not appear for several days after eating onions.
Although it’s a nice thought to share your Christmas lunch with your dog, remember that human food is certainly a lot richer and contains a lot more fat, than their usual pet food. The last thing you want to experience on Christmas Day is a dog with an upset stomach. They will be just as happy to be fed their usual, routine meal. If you want to treat them, buy them a new toy or take them for a long walk on a different route after your lunch. These are healthy gifts that they will enjoy.
If you have guests visiting for a meal, don’t be afraid to mention to them not to feed your dog. They may not be aware of the risks associated with certain non-doggy types of foods.