Most people love Christmas, but for our pets, it can be a risky time. So, to keep them safe and healthy, you must know the dangers, and stay on your toes…
The first major risk is from Christmas decorations. Sparkling, bright, pretty things make us feel festive, but can be dangerous to inquisitive animals. The biggest threats are from…
- Baubles (especially the glass ones).
- Cats like to roll baubles around and bat them, which can result in breakages and shards of glass flying around. This can cause cuts and lacerations of their paws.
- Dogs, however, are at much greater risk, because they like to chew new and interesting things. If they break a decoration, it tends to cause deep cuts to the inside of the mouth. In addition, some dogs like to swallow things, and a round bauble slips down quite nicely – then gets stuck in their intestines. This usually requires emergency surgery to remove the errant decoration.
- Tinsel (a bit retro but still popular!).
- Dogs and cats both like playing with tinsel, but it’s cats who are most likely to get themselves in trouble. The strands can easily becomes trapped around their claws, leaving them needing untangling.
- However, the real danger is if they swallow some. Then it forms what we call a “linear foreign body”. Once in the intestines, a strand of tinsel can act as a cheesewire, bunching up the guts and cutting its way through the intestinal walls. This usually requires emergency surgery.
- Fairy Lights.
- Fairy lights are absolutely fascinating to pets – bright, twinkling lights, some dogs and cats will sit and stare endlessly at them. They aren’t the problem though – it’s the pets who want to play with the lights we need to worry about. Animals who get tangled up in the wires often panic, and can cause significant musculoskeletal strains and sprains. In addition, although the electrical current isn’t that high, it can still cause burns to their mouths if they chew through the cables; plus, the bulbs can easily be swallowed.
- Dogs tend to ignore candles, but their wagging tails can knock them over, or even catch alight.
- Cats, however, see the flickering light as a fascinating new toy. They tend to bat at the flame and paw away at the shaft. This is all fun and games until they burn their paws, or knock over the candle, setting fire to the tablecloth.
- Solution: keep all Christmas decorations high enough that they’re out of reach. If that isn’t possible, no access without supervision… In the case of candles, the modern electric ones with LED flames are safe and look nearly as good.
The Christmas tree is also a threat…
- To dogs, it’s a urinal. This can easily get messy; however, if there are electrical cables or sockets in the vicinity, it’s a fire risk, plus risking a very embarrassing electrocution injury.
- For cats, however, the tree is a climbing frame. However, most indoor trees can’t cope with four or five kilos of curious cat crawling around in its branches. The often results in the tree collapsing and the cat flying across the room.
- Solution: No unsupervised contact with the tree!
The final major threat is Christmas food. Both cats and dogs can become seriously ill from eating human food. In particular, we tend to worry about:
- Raisins, including mincemeat and Christmas pudding.
- In dogs and, we think, cats, raisins, grapes and other dried fruit can cause kidney failure.
- The early symptoms include increased thirst and altered urination.
- Peanuts alone aren’t terribly dangerous, although they can cause diarrhoea.
- However, most peanuts are salted, and this can cause salt poisoning, leading to seizures in dogs.
- Macadamia nuts
- Commonly found in Christmas assortments, these small spherical nuts can cause a wide range of toxic effects in dogs.
- The symptoms may include weakness and wobbliness, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, and sometimes tender limbs and joints.
- Are much less safe than most people think, being a known cause of anaemia in dogs and cats.
- Well known as being highly toxic to both cats and dogs, causing vomiting, heart problems and potentially seizures.
- Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are the most dangerous forms, as they contain the most theobromine. White chocolate is much less risky, and milk chocolate somewhere in between.
- Many people like to give their pets leftovers from Christmas dinner, including turkey or other meat trimmings. Although the meat isn’t dangerous (if properly cooked – dogs and cats can get Salmonella and Campylobacter too!), the bones can easily cause a blockage in the bowel or gullet.
- Cooked bones are more dangerous than raw, as they splinted and may perforate the gut.
- Rich Food
- Even if you avoid all the toxic and dangerous components, a sudden change of diet (especially to a rich meat and gravy) can cause a nasty bout of diarrhoea. You have been warned!