Now that the scary monsters & noisy fireworks are over for another year, everyone begins to think about Christmas!
A time for celebration, good times, laughter, fun and family. The delicious aromas wafting in from the kitchen, the Xmas decorations placed around the house, along with a variety of Christmas plants can be hazardous to your pets if not kept out of reach.
We thought that we could put together a little list to help keep you all safe. Some you may already know, some you might not. We hope you will have the time to read our findings, and that our information and advice will enable you to have a Merry Christmas.
The chemical theobromine, which is a bit like caffeine, is found in chocolate and is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions and problems with the heart. The darker the chocolate, the more potent levels of theobromine become – with baker’s chocolate the most dangerous. Chocolate should be avoided at all costs. But what do you do if your dog does eat chocolate? Even small amounts have the potential to make them feel sick, but as a guide veterinary treatment should be sought for any dog ingesting more than 20 mg/kg of theobromine – that’s equivalent to 3.5 g/kg of plain or dark chocolate and 14 g/kg milk chocolate. White chocolate does not contain enough theobromine to cause toxicity, but it can be fatty and pose a potential risk of pancreatitis. If in doubt seek Veterinary advice. Avoid putting any chocolate on or under the Christmas tree, as the temptation might be too great for our four legged friends.
Christmas pudding and mince pies,Grapes and dried vine fruits (currants, sultanas, raisins)
Grapes and their dried products (currants, sultanas and raisins) are toxic to dogs. Ingestion of even a small quantity can cause severe kidney failure. Don’t forget this will include food items that contain dried fruits such as Christmas pudding and mince pies. Be aware that chocolate-coated raisins run the additional risk of chocolate toxicity. Even if your dog has eaten any of these products in the past and been okay, we recommend you seek veterinary advice as soon as you realise your dog has eaten them.
Onions (and garlic, leeks, shallots and chives)
Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the Allium species of plants and can cause toxicity, whether uncooked or cooked. Initially there can be vomiting and diarrhoea but the main effect is damage to red blood cells, resulting in anaemia. This may not be apparent for several days after ingestion.
Alcohol can have a similar effect in dogs as it does in their owners when drunk in excess. They can become wobbly and drowsy and in severe cases, there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma. Dogs may help themselves to any unattended alcohol left lying around over Christmas, so ensure it’s always out of their reach.
Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness in dogs.
If there is any food left over at Christmas, be careful to dispose of it well and keep it out of the reach of your four-legged friend. Not only may the food include ingredients toxic to dogs, mould in leftovers (including yoghurt, bread and cheese) can produce toxins that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.
A sugar-free sweetener called xylitol is often found in the sweets we consume over Christmas, as well as chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpastes and supplements. It is poisonous to dogs and, although the amounts in different products vary, event one to two pieces of chewing gum can cause toxic effects in a small dog. It can induce the release of insulin in the body, resulting in low blood sugar and sometimes liver damage. Signs of poisoning can be rapid or delayed, and include vomiting, lethargy, convulsions and comas. The prognosis is good if the low blood sugar is treated quickly.
Christmas tree needles
Although these do not cause life threatening reactions, they have all been known to cause reactions from irritated skin, dermatitis, to upset tummies and vomiting if ingested. So once again keep out of reach of your dogs.
Some less toxic things to keep an eye out for are: Silica gel. Silica gel comes in small sachets and is often found in the packaging of new shoes, handbags, cameras or electrical equipment which we unwrap over Christmas. Although it is labelled “Do not Eat” it is considered to be of low toxicity. Christmas decorations made of plastic, paper or foil are of low toxicity although may obstruct the stomach. Glass decorations could pose a risk if chewed or swallowed.
Wrapping or crepe paper Ingestion may cause staining in the mouth which may look alarming, but the toxicity is low. But if your dog eats a large amount, it may cause an obstruction to the stomach.
Candles, although candles, even scented ones, are of low toxicity, ingestion could potentially block the intestine or cause choking.
Potpourri when eaten, potpourri can cause significant gastrointestinal effects in dogs. These may last several days even after the material has passed through the gut.
Cigarettes nicotine is toxic to dogs, and cigarette butts are especially dangerous – so it’s important not to leave any ashtrays in reach of dogs over Christmas, or dropped on the floor where they may eat them. Nicotine replacement patches and e-cigarette refills can also pose a risk. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, excess saliva and hypertension.