Christmas is an exciting time for all, and that includes our four-leggedfriends. But it can also be a dangerous time if we’re not hot on what’s goodand bad for our pets’ health.
2020 saw adoptions and sales of pets soar thanks to the coronavirus pandemic,with more and more people spending time at home and seeing it as the perfectoccasion to get a new dog or cat.
This means that lots of people will be celebrating their first Christmas witha brand new pet – and if you’re not up-to-speed on the dangers that festivefoods and traditions could pose, it could prove to be a Christmas to forget.
Samantha Butler-Davies, a vet and veterinary clinical services manager atVets4Pets, explains: “With so many people in the UK having decided to add apet to their family during lockdown I’m sure for many this will be their firsttime owning a pet.”
She added, “We therefore wanted to make sure everyone knows the key dos anddon’ts for pets during the festive season, so owners can be assured that theycan enjoy a relaxing and happy Christmas with their family, without anysurprise emergency visits to their vet.”
There was a rise in gastro-related queries and claims over the festive periodlast year, according to digital pet insurance company Waggel, a result of dogsor cats consuming the wrong foods or accidentally eating festive decorations.
A Waggel spokesperson and Butler-Davies walk us through some of the hiddendangers that the festive period brings.
Christmas foods that are poisonous to pets
There are quite a few foods that disagree with both cats and dogs. Keep inmind that if your pet eats any of the below, they’ll need to see a vet.
Chocolate is dangerous for pets because it includes a chemical calledtheobromine, which can’t easily be metabolized, making it potentiallypoisonous. Dark chocolate is especially problematic.
So if you do have pets, it’s best to put chocolates on the highest branches ofyour Christmas tree (or just don’t put them out this year and eat theminstead). You should also be wary of any gifts that contain chocolate, askeeping these under the tree basically acts as an open invitation to dive in.
“Your pet will be able to sniff chocolate through any wrapping so to make surethey can’t get their paws on them, place these out of reach and somewhereother than under the tree,” says Waggel’s spokesperson.
You might want to give your pooch a nice turkey leg to chomp on while you allsit down to eat your roast, but any meat with bones in it can either causeyour pet to choke or can splinter and cause issues when ingested.
Onions and garlic
Thiosulphate is an ingredient found in onions and garlic, which is toxic topets, says Waggel’s spokesperson. “If eaten, it can cause an upset stomach andcan also put them at risk of developing a condition called haemolytic anaemiawhich can cause damage to the red blood cells.”
Salty or fatty foods
You might think sausages, ham or a little bit of bacon is safe, but becausethey all have a high fat and salt content, they can actually cause an upsetstomach. And in severe cases, consuming these foods can cause pancreatitis,which can make pets extremely poorly.
Christmas pudding and mince pies
Anything that contains raisins, currants or grapes is extremely toxic to catsand dogs – even if your pet consumes as little as one raisin, it can bedangerous. If eaten, you should consult your vet straight away.
These have a high fat and salt content, which can cause stomach upset or evenchoking. Watch out for macadamia nuts in particular, which can be toxic whenconsumed by dogs and cats.
Keep the booze out of reach of prying paws. If your pet consumes alcohol, theymight react in a similar way to a human, becoming wobbly or drowsy, and insome cases, wanting all the fuss. But in severe cases, your pet’s bodytemperature might drop and they could experience low blood sugar and fall intoa coma.
Lots of the sweets and treats you may have lying around the house at Christmaswill contain artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, which can be toxic topets. It can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) in dogs.
So which foods are safe, then?
Your normal pet food is the best thing to feed your pet during the Christmasseason, as even small changes in diet can cause an upset stomach. However ifyou do want to give your pet a treat, there are some foods that are perfectlysafe to give, says Waggel’s spokesperson.
These include: dog- or cat-specific chocolate, biscuits and treats (boughtfrom pet stores); boiled or steamed vegetables including peas, broccoli, greenbeans, carrots and sweet potatoes (just make sure there is no added salt orbutter, and that they are cut into small chunks); and lean parts of white meat(without any sauces, glazes or oils on them).
Beware seasonal plants, too
They might look pretty to you, but there are plenty of festive plants that canbe harmful to pets, and you probably didn’t even realize it. You should bemindful of poinsettias, Christmas tree pine needles, holly, mistletoe andconkers or acorns. All of these can cause irritation, stomach issues and are achoking hazard. Lilies are also highly toxic to both cats and dogs.
Keep an eye on your Christmas tree
If it looks beautiful to you, you can bet it’s also pretty intriguing to yournew pet. “Christmas trees are a key centerpiece in most family homes over thefestive season, but they can be a potential hazard,” says Butler-Davies.
“Cats love to climb trees, so it is key that cat owners make sure to fullycat-proof their tree, ensuring it is well-anchored and keeping all thedecorations securely fastened higher up and towards the centre of the tree, sothey are less easily accessible,” she adds.
She says most cats dislike the sensation of tinfoil on their claws, so youcould try wrapping tinfoil around the base of the tree to deter them. And makesure any water in the tree base is kept covered, so no inquisitive pets take adrink.
Christmas decorations can also potentially be hazardous. “Pets love to playand chew anything they can get their paws on,” says Waggel’s spokesperson. “Ifthey swallow decorations which are lying around, they could cause choking andmay need to be surgically removed.”
Some other things to be mindful of: antifreeze is highly toxic to pets so makesure yours is securely stored away after you’ve used it, and salt and grit onthe pavement and roads can cause irritation to the pads on dogs’ paws, saysWaggel’s spokesperson, so make sure to wipe their feet after taking them outfor a walk.
Keep the stress levels down
Having people over can be exciting for your pets – but it can also be astressor. So it’s important to keep an eye on any abnormal behavior.
“A new issue that many pets will have to get accustomed to this year ispotentially sharing their home with multiple new guests for the first time,”says Butler-Davies.
Socialization is a crucial stage in development for puppies and kittens.Normally by the time a person collects a new pet, breeders will have begunsocialization by handling them, letting them see people of different ages andappearances, including children, and introducing them to other animal species.
However, continued contact this year has been difficult to keep up duringlockdowns, with many pets only having limited interaction with new people andexperiences.
“Therefore, if people are going to enjoy a socially distanced Christmasgathering this year, it is crucial that they ensure their pet is calm andrelaxed,” says Dr Butler-Davies. “The easiest way to achieve this is to createa cosy den with their favorite toys in a quiet area of the house that they canescape to.”
Waggel’s spokesperson also recommends using calming products such as Adaptil,Feliway, Zylkene and Calmex – “all of which are completely safe and will helpkeep your pets relaxed during this busy time.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK.
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