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ALISON LAURIE-CHALMERS: Tips on keeping your pets safe over the festive period

By Alison Laurie-Chalmers

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Be careful with what you give your pets to eat this festive season.
Be careful with what you give your pets to eat this festive season.

Bandit was a lovely, exuberant, four-year-old cocker spaniel. He was known as a bit of a thief, and he loved his food.

Bandit was rushed into the vet practice early on Christmas morning as he had eaten a wrapped box of chocolates which had been placed underneath the Christmas tree. Bandit was kept in at the practice and given medication to induce vomiting and then some supportive treatments, to protect him from any chocolate poisoning.

This was not a good start to the Christmas Day for his family, and it certainly was not a nice visit to the practice for poor Bandit.

Please keep your pets safe this Christmas by following this advice.

Chocolate is abundant at this time, and all dog owners should be aware that it can be extremely poisonous. The severity depends on the type of chocolate ingested and on the dog’s weight. Dark chocolate is the most serious, this is because all chocolate contains a poisonous chemical called theobromine, and the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. Initial signs of poisoning may include: vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, heart arrythmias and tremors. Although white chocolate contains less theobromine, it contains a higher fat content than other chocolate, so it can potentially still make your dog ill.

As well as chocolate, other sweets can pose problems to our pets if consumed. This is because many sweets contain added artificial sweeteners, including xylitol, which can cause poisoning if ingested and a rapid drop in blood glucose resulting in the dog collapsing. As well as this, most sweets can also cause a marked laxative effect, particularly in dogs, and this is likely to result in acute diarrhoea... not ideal at Christmas!

The consumption of grapes, raisins and currants presents a potentional health threat to dogs and cats. Exactly why these fruit foods are poisonous is unknown, however, it is known that their toxicity can induce kidney failure, symptoms of which can sometimes be delayed for 24 to 72 hours.

Many cheeses are also best kept away from our pets, blue cheeses in particular which contain a substance called roquefortine C, produced by a fungus. Dogs are extremely sensitive to this which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and sometimes seizures.

Pastry-based Christmas pies, biscuits, and cakes, as well as usually being full of raisins, are also high in fat. High fat foods can give dogs severe, painful stomach troubles: gastritis and pancreatitis.

Nuts and alcohol, if left accessible, can lead to poisoning in our pets.

It is strongly advised not to give your pet, rich, high fat “scraps” like turkey skin or pork crackling.

Certain plants, commonly used at the festive time, including poinsettia, amaryllis, mistletoe, ivy and holly-berries, can also be toxic.

The “take care” advice also goes for all your decorations and wrapping. Pets can get into serious trouble through trying to play with them and intestinal obstruction requiring surgical intervention if eaten.

Christmas and New Year provides yet another opportunity for loud noises, and fireworks. So create a safe, quiet “den” or space for your pets.

We are walking our dogs in the dark just now, so high-vis jackets or arm bands for ourselves, and leads, collars and jackets and flashing lights for our pets’ collars can help them and us be seen by traffic. Please make sure that your pets are all micro-chipped and contact details are up to date, and also have an identification tag on their collars.

Follow this seasonal advice to hopefully ensure a happy Christmas, and a peaceful new year both for you and for your lovely pets.

  • Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant with Crown Vets in Inverness.

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