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Keeping pets safe at Christmas

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Christmas is a time for celebrations, catching up with family and friends, sharing presents and enjoying food around the table with the people you love.

We all enjoy our favourite traditional treats and foods, and it is important to be aware of potential dangers and how to prevent any accidents when your pets are with you at Christmas. There are many types of food and drink, as well as the festivities themselves that can present a danger to our pets. Our article helps to highlight the festive dangers for your pets.

If you’re concerned, always speak to a veterinary professional if your pet has eaten something you are unsure about, as they can help to support and reassure you. Treatment is often far quicker and easier before the item has been fully digested by your pet.


Christmas Dinner

  • Onions, Garlic, Leeks, and Chives: These are in more foods than we often realise and although to us humans they are tasty, to our pets even a small amount can cause serious blood problems. These ingredients may be the star of a dish but in festive meals they could also be hiding in soups, sauces, gravies, stuffing, pickles, crackers, preserves, and even breads. Too many spices can also cause gastric issues for your dog, and they are best avoided.
  • Christmas meat and fat: fatty foods, turkey skin, gravy, ham, and other pork items can be difficult to digest and can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea or even cause pancreatitis.
  • Poultry and turkey bones: carcass leftovers can be a risk to pets, as bones can be sharp and cause vomiting and serious internal damage if they obstruct or damage the digestive tract. Keep all carcasses wrapped tightly in a pet proof bin to prevent any accidents.

Desserts and Accompaniments

  • Raisins, Sultanas, Currants, Grapes: these ingredients are common during the festive season. Mince pies, Christmas puddings and Christmas cake. They may contain raisins or sultanas and can be lethal to pets. Eating these ingredients can cause damage to the kidneys. Be vigilant over the Christmas period, as these dried fruits and grapes can lurk in breads, chocolates, biscuits, stuffings and sauces.
  • Chocolate: chocolate is very common over the festive period and can be toxic to pets. Advent calendars, selection boxes and tins, tree decorations and more. Be aware of wrapped gifts under the tree and keep all chocolate well away and out of your pet’s reach.
  • Sweets and treats: some sweets and sugar free desserts or baked goods contain an artificial sweetener called Xylitol. This is toxic to cats and dogs and must be avoided.
  • Nuts: certain nuts are unsafe pets. Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, weakness, and pancreatitis in your dog.
  • Bread dough: uncooked bread dough can be dangerous if eaten. Make sure to keep any baking well out of their reach and secure from curious canines. Uncooked dough if eaten can cause bloating or a twisted stomach and the yeast in the dough can ferment in a warm stomach causing alcohol toxicity.
  • Milk, cream, and butter: cats and dogs are often lactose intolerant, so any foods containing milk or butter like mashed potatoes could cause vomiting or diarrhoea. If they have high fat cream, it may even cause pancreatitis.


Other hazards

  • Wrappers and packaging: pets may unintentionally eat packaging and wrappers while trying to reach the treats inside. Be vigilant with wrapped gifts, chocolate and other items that could be tempting to pets. Some of these items if swallowed could cause internal blockages or damage.
  • Christmas Decorations: another common cause of blockages and injury at this time of the year are Christmas decorations such as tinsel or baubles. Any type of decoration could be dangerous if swallowed and our pets often love chasing and playing with these brightly coloured shiny objects. Make sure any decorations are kept out of the way and high up out of paws reach.
  • Candles, fireworks, lanterns, fires: we all enjoy lighting a fire or a candle on a cold festive day but it’s important to keep our pets away from naked flames. Some pets can also be sensitive to scents and fumes so keep rooms well ventilated. Fireworks can be loud and distressing to pets so be aware of your pets needs and give them somewhere quiet and safe to retreat to.

Create a safe, quiet place for your pets

Christmas is an enjoyable festive time for family and friends and with a few precautions and safety tips it is possible for your 4-legged furry friends to enjoy it as much as you are. Sometimes your pets may find the festivities stressful, make sure you create a quiet space for them to go to if they need time to themselves. Include their favourite toys, a few treats, and a blanket to help them settle.

By Melissa Pickburn

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