Vets are urging pet owners to make sure their festive homes are safe for animals during the Christmas season by warning of a number of unknown hazards and poisons in and around the home.
There are several substances toxic to pets which are found in the home during the Christmas period. Chocolate is one of the most common causes of poisoning, especially in dogs, but it is also toxic to other species, for example cats, rodents and rabbits. A recent survey of Facebook fans on Park Bench and Scratching Post (part of the PetNet360 site) about chocolate as a Christmas health hazard indicated that dogs were more eager to sniff out chocolate than their feline counterparts, with 58% of participants saying their dogs had got their paws on chocolate whereas only 17% of cats had.
Other hazardous items include sweets and liquorice which are often given as Christmas gifts; raisins and sultanas used to make Christmas cakes, mince pies and Christmas puddings; grapes; onions and garlic; Blu-tack used to put up cards and decorations; and antifreeze, which is often used in the winter months.
Festive homes also contain additional hazards for pets such as electrical cables powering Christmas tree lights which could be very dangerous if chewed; wrapping and bows from presents; decorations such as tinsel which might be ingested or broken glass baubles which could cause injury. Also take care not to leave batteries lying around: if ingested they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach, resulting in severe impairment of both breathing and swallowing.
Vet Carl Padgett, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said:
“Christmas is a time for families and we’re reminding pet owners it’s also time to remember the health and welfare of their animals too.
“Our message to pet owners is don’t ruin your Christmas through carelessness. The loss or illness of a family pet is devastating but poisoning in the home can be easily avoided.
“Some substances may make your animal drool or vomit so they should always have access to clean drinking water. If there is any doubt or concern owners should contact their vet for advice immediately.”
Mr Padgett added:
“Owners should check with their veterinary surgeon about emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours – or, if you are away from home, use www.findavet.org.uk/ to find a veterinary practice in an emergency.”
The British Veterinary Association’s charity, the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), in conjunction with the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), has produced a ‘Pets and Poisons’ leaflet which draws attention to common household and garden substances that may seem innocent but which can be very dangerous to pets.
Vet Tiffany Hemming, Chair of Trustees for the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation, said:
“Pet owners should educate themselves about all the hazardous poisons in their homes and gardens and take simple steps to ensure they are kept out of reach of cats, dogs and other animals.
“The BVA AWF guide to Pets and Poisons is clear and simple to use and could help reduce the dangers in the home not only at Christmas but all year round.”
Vets and members of the public can request hard copies of the leaflet by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The BVA also warns that while it’s tempting to give pets special food treats at Christmas, rich and fatty foods can trigger sickness and diarrhoea – and, at worst, conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis. So try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine.
Remember that noise and excitement at Christmas time can cause animals to get nervous and stressed so pets will need a safe haven where they can go for peace and quiet. If you are travelling away from home do ensure your pet is microchipped and wearing a collar and identification tag so it can be easily reunited with you should it become lost.