Northamptonshire vet warns pet owners about the 12 dangers of Christmas

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‘We see a lot of examples of poisoning over the festive period’

A Northamptonshire veterinary hospital is warning pet owners to be clued up on the dangers of Christmas as the festive countdown begins.

Northlands Veterinary Hospital in Kettering is preparing for a flurry of emergency visits from cats and dogs suffering illness or injury after eating festive foods that are toxic or dangerous.

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Many homes are full of extra food and drink in the run up to Christmas and there are more cases of potentially fatal poisoning than any other time of year.

Many popular festive foods are poisonous to petsMany popular festive foods are poisonous to pets
Many popular festive foods are poisonous to pets

Dogs choking or suffering internal damage from turkey bones, usually stolen from the bin or kitchen counter, is one of the common emergencies. Other festive risks include pets being poisoned by chocolate, mince pies, macadamia nuts, Christmas cake and pudding, while overfeeding fatty food could damage their pancreas or cause gastroenteritis.

Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine which is toxic to dogs, while the caffeine content in many chocolates can exacerbate the effects. Raisins, currants and sultanas in mince pies and Christmas cake are also poisonous. Other festive hazards include poinsettias, pine needles, holly berries and mistletoe, which can all cause illness if eaten.

Pets have also needed to visit the vet’s after eating or chewing decorations like tinsel, twinkling lights and toys on the tree.

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Vet Hans van der Hoven who is Northlands Veterinary Hospital’s clinical director, said: “As we get closer to Christmas Day, we expect to see cases of pets that have eaten something they shouldn’t have.

“We see a lot of examples of poisoning over the festive period. In some cases, owners are completely unaware of the hidden dangers and are simply intending to be kind to their pet. There have also been cases of dogs stealing the Christmas turkey or taking chocolate from under the tree, so it is important to keep food and treats out of reach of pets.”

While many people hope for a white Christmas, vets are urging pet owners and car owners alike to be vigilant with antifreeze, which is highly toxic and most often fatal if eaten. Cats often walk through the substance and then lick it off their paws, causing poisoning.

Taking a few simple steps to keep pets safe can prevent festive fun turning sour, but owners should also know what to do if accidents happen.

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Hans added: “If your pet eats something they shouldn’t, contact your vet straight away and try to let them know what has been eaten, how much and when. The faster we can see a pet, the better, so we can induce vomiting if necessary and assess the level of toxicity.

“If your pet is a scavenger, it may be best to keep any leftovers in a cupboard out of reach. It is recommended that edible presents you place under the tree are pet-proofed, as we see a lot of cases where pets have sniffed things out and eaten them.”

To help you have a Happy Christmas, Northlands Veterinary Hospital has come up with a list of 12 dangers of Christmas that your pet should avoid:-1. Alcohol - Keep alcoholic drinks and food containing alcohol out of your pet’s reach. It has similar side effects to humans and can cause serious liver damage.2. Aspirin, paracetamol and Ibuprofen - If you’ve stocked up on painkillers for your Boxing Day hangover, keep them out of your pet’s way as they can be fatal if swallowed.3. Antifreeze - If there’s snow and ice over Christmas, mop up any spills of antifreeze. It is highly toxic and often fatal but cats like the sweet taste.4. Batteries - At Christmas, batteries can be easily left on the floor by children or in toys that an unsupervised dog may play with or chew. They can cause serious damage so keep them out of your dog’s reach.5. Chocolate - Theobromine is a chemical in chocolate that can cause serious harm to your pet. The darker and higher the percentage of cocoa, the more theobromine is in the chocolate.6. Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding – The raisins, sultanas and currants they contain can cause kidney failure in some pets and can be fatal.7. Cooked bones - Turkey, chicken, lamb, beef and pork bones can easily splinter and perforate your dog’s stomach. They are dangerous and should never be fed to a dog. Keep bins secure and food out of reach.8. Holly berries – Can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive salivation and weakness in dogs.9. Onions – Onions, garlic, chives and leeks are part of the Allium family and are poisonous to cats and dogs. They are contained in high concentrations in food like stuffing and gravy.10. Poinsettia – These popular Christmas plants are toxic to cats and can cause vomiting, excessive salivation, loss of appetite, lethargy and depression.11. Sugar free sweets and mints – Contain a chemical known as xylitol, used to sweeten mints and sweets that are sugar-free can cause serious damage to your pet.12. Fireworks – If your pet is frightened of New Year’s Eve fireworks, speak to your vet in advance for advice. Keep them safely indoors, close curtains and turn on the TV to block out the noise.