Christmas is a time for goodwill to all men, but make sure this also extends to your four-legged friends. It’s easy to get swept up in the occasion and feel that you want to share all the Christmas festivities with your pets, but it can endanger their health, sometimes seriously, and even innocent treats can be deadly. To avoid killing them with kindness pet food company Vet’s Kitchen has a guide to the top dangers.
Deck the halls (carefully)
- Those chocolate treats behind the advent calendar doors, and all the other tempting chocolate on offer, contain a stimulant called theobromine which is poisonous to dogs - dark chocolate contains the most. Theobromine mainly affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys – 4-24 hours after eating chocolate your pet could show signs of: vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, hyperactivity, tremors and seizures.
- Pets are fascinated by twinkling tinsel and shiny decorations, sometimes attempting to eat or play with them. If they ingest loose strands it can cause life threatening intestinal obstructions. To be safe, keep them out of your pets reach.
- Poinsettias are an essential festive plant, but they can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach of animals, hyper-salivation and sometimes vomiting. Lilies, another popular choice at Christmas, are extremely toxic to cats and cause severe kidney damage.
- They may be a delicious nibble, but within 12 hours of eating macadamia nuts dogs can experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and hypothermia which can last for 12-48 hours.
- The cheese board is a temptation at any Christmas drinks party, just don’t slip any crumbs of blue cheese to the owner’s dog.Roquefort and other blue cheese contains mycotoxin roquefortine, to which dogs are sensitive to. Muscle tremors, seizures, and in worst cases even death have resulted from dogs eating large quantities or very overripe blue cheese. The toxin is also found on other mouldy foods so bin-raiding pet owners beware!
- The bad effects of overindulging in alcohol are all too well known at Christmas, but remember it is significantly more toxic to dogs and cats than humans. Alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and in extreme cases even death.
Christmas dinner dangers
- Turkey and all the trimmings is the crowning glory of the Christmas table but pets can easily choke on bones, cooked bones from the turkey carcass can splinter easily and become lodged or puncture your dog’s digestive tract. Sage & onion stuffing may seem an innocent leftover treat for your cat, but onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives (all Alliums) can cause toxicity, even when cooked. Dogs can also be affected if they eat large quantities.
- Rich fatty foods can be a problem for everyone at Christmas, but festive overindulgence by your dog or cat may lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. Large high fat meals can lead to pancreatitis.
- Christmas pudding is a no-no for dogs or cats due to a toxic substance in grapes and raisins which can cause kidney failure. This makes fruit cake and mince pies out of bounds too.
To treat your pet with positive instead of negative effects this Christmas, Vet’s Kitchen has developed Little Stars Active+ and Little Stars Smart+ dog treats and Little Hearts cat treats which contain no added artificial “nasties” and are hypoallergenic. To help owners be treat-wise they are also the first pet treats to show the calorific content on pack.
Unlike the majority of treats on the market, Little Stars Active+ and Little Stars Smart+ contain a single source of protein – Salmon in the former and Chicken in the latter, which deliver healthy energy. Little Stars Active+ contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM to promote healthy joint development and Omegas 3 and 6 for healthy heart, skin and coat. Little Stars Smart+ contains DHA, an essential fatty acid that improves cognitive thought and learning. Little Hearts cat treats deliver specific health benefits to cats through a high percentage of meat, plus natural active ingredients including added cellulose fibre to reduce furballs and promote dental health.
Although it is natural to want to treat your pets as part of the family, cats cannot actually detect or taste sweet-smelling compounds and dogs sense of taste is actually quite poor, although they have an organ on the roof of their mouth which allows them to ‘taste’ certain smells, they only have one sixth the number of taste buds that a human has.
Any owners who are concerned that their pet has eaten something harmful this Christmas should seek the advice of a trained vet immediately. Whereas it seems a good idea to treat your pets like another family member, you can do more harm than good, so stick to specially formulated products that offer health benefits not dangers.
And when you start the post-Christmas fitness drive, be careful getting your pet to be your diet partner – the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is found in many diet foods, causes insulin release in many species leading to potentially fatal hypoglycaemia (lowered sugar levels). It can be dangerous even in small amounts to dogs and has been linked to fatal acute liver disease and blood clotting disorders.