Hidden dangers of festive period

EVERYONE wants to enjoy Christmas time and there is certainly a lot to think about – decorations, wrapping, shopping and entertaining so the last thing you need is an unexpected trip to the vets.

Unfortunately, the festive period is a common time for pets to suffer from mishaps, with deviation from routine and an ever-changing environment with interesting things to explore.

Decorations and toys can all be very exciting for our pets to investigate.

These items are not designed to be chewed.

Christmas lights can electrocute, baubles can damage the mouth and it is always surprising what items pets will swallow.

A foreign body in the digestive tract can result in a blockage and cause severe vomiting and ultimately expensive surgery.

Cats surprisingly are prone to swallowing tinsel and other pieces of Christmas decorations, usually resulting in a nasty condition known as a linear foreign body.

Ensure decorations are out of reach of pets and fixed securely.

Holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are toxic to pets causing a nasty stomach upset or worse, if consumed.

Site them where they cannot be reached and remove any fallen berries and leaves straight away.

Christmas trees can also present an endless list of problems. They need to be firmly supported to ensure large energetic dogs don’t knock them over leading to a whole host of potential injuries.

If you are thinking of getting a traditional, rooted tree, remember to cover the soil otherwise the cat may use the area as a toilet – not quite the present you were expecting on Christmas morning.

Needles from the tree can also create problems; they can stick in the coat and paws of pets, creating intense pain.

Should your pet show reluctance to use one of its paws, then you should always suspect the presence of a needle. Like grass seeds, needles have the ability to penetrate a long way up into the foot, commonly between the pads of the paw and even start to work up the leg. Arrange an appointment without delay if you suspect this.

Many pet owners are not aware that chocolate and fruit cake are poisonous to dogs and cats. Chocolate contains a substance – theobromine – that can induce severe toxic effects, especially in dogs. Just 100g of dark chocolate could cause poisoning in a small dog. Chocolate sold specifically for dog treats contains less theobromine and therefore shouldn’t cause any harm.

Grapes are also potentially toxic to dogs, causing acute renal failure if ingested in vast quantities. So while the odd one or two are not likely to cause problems, cakes and puddings rich in dried fruit can be a real threat.

The festive period is a classic time for over-indulgence and many owners want to treat their pet. But while we classically only have to deal with a bout of indigestion, our dogs and cats are not adaptable to cope with a sudden diet change or the addition of rich food and can end up with a nasty stomach upset. Severe cases require hospitalisation and bones are a risk too.

Stick with your pet’s normal diet this Christmas and treat them with attention and new toys instead. In the first instances of a stomach upset, a bland diet of something like turkey and rice can help your pet recover.

Not only is it mum that gets stressed around Christmas, but your pet can be too. A change in routine, lots of visitors, Christmas crackers, party poppers and fireworks can take their toll.

Try plugging in a DAP adaptor, available from our branches, at least a week before Christmas to help keep your dog calm.

Remember, if your pet does become ill over the Christmas period, Robson and Prescott’s vets and are here for you throughout the holidays, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Associate Veterinary Surgeon