Christmas and New Year are an exciting time for many of us, however, it also brings a number of problems when it comes to trying to keep our pets safe. From the beautiful decorations we adorn our homes with, to the scrumptious food that we consume over the festive period. They can all pose a real risk to our curious pets!

For many of us Christmas begins with the yearly custom of picking the perfect tree and decorating our homes. Whilst you’re are dusting off those decorations, be sure to read our top tips below on how to keep your pets safe this Christmas.

A Christmas tree is a festive favourite, with many households opting to buy a real tree every year. Although relatively safe, real trees will undoubtedly shed sharp pine needles that can injure delicate paws and eyes or cause internal damage if ingested. The natural oils produced by the tree and the water sat below can also cause stomach upsets. Alongside Christmas trees other plants that can cause similar upsets and are commonly found in Christmas wreaths and decorations include Poinsettia, Holly, Mistletoe and Ivy. To minimise the risk posed by these plants it is best to always keep them out of reach, for example by placing your tree on a small and sturdy table. Ensuring regular vacuuming of dropped pines will also help reduce the risk of your pet ingesting them.

Accompanying trees and foliage, the decorations placed on our trees can appear incredibly tempting! For both cats and dogs’ tinsel and fairy lights can seem to be an irresistible, twinkling toy. Not only can lights become extremely hot and be an electrical hazard if chewed, pets can become entangled and If swallowed tinsel can cause severe intestinal blockages that may require emergency surgery to rectify. Much alike tinsel, sparkling baubles and hanging decorations attract the attention of our pets, these are usually very fragile and can leave sharp fragments if damaged. If you hang edible decorations (such as chocolates and candy canes) it is best to hang them where your pet cannot reach them.

Despite the above risks, by far the most common reason for emergency veterinary visits over Christmas is from owners unknowingly feeding or pets getting hold of harmful and toxic foods, in 2019 VetsNow noted that 9 in 10 poisonings happen whilst pets are in their own homes, with 5.5 million owners unknowingly feeding their pets harmful foods over the Christmas period alone. So, what foods should be kept out of reach at all times and NEVER fed to our pets;

Chocolate contains a stimulant known as theobromine which is toxic to dogs, even small amounts of this can make your pet feel unwell, leading to vomiting, diarrhoea and even death in severe cases.

Christmas pudding and mince pies
A staple at most dinner tables on Christmas day, these tasty puddings contain raisins, currents, dried fruit and even a splash of alcohol, all of these things are highly toxic to dogs and even ingestion of a small amount can result in kidney failure.

Macadamia Nuts
These are also highly toxic to dogs and can cause tremors, vomiting, diarrhoea and weakness and even if ingested by our pets.

Onions, Garlic and leaks
Can cause toxicity both raw and cooked. Ingestion of these can cause damage to red blood cells and lead to anaemia.

Alcohol ingestion in pets is even more toxic than to human, it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, tremors, coma and even death.

Artificial sweeteners
Xylitol can be found in many foods including cakes, chewing gum and sweets. Ingestion can cause potentially fatal hypoglycaemia and liver failure. Extremely small amounts of this can be extremely dangerous.

Blue Cheese
Commonly on most tables as a festive treat, this ripened cheese can contain roquefortine C, which is particularly toxic to dogs, ingestion can cause similar symptoms to those if alcohol is ingested.

Cooked bones
Bone are very appealing to most dogs and cats if left within reach. However, cooked bones in particular are extremely brittle and splinter easily, these can cause an obstruction in your cat or dogs intestines and can pierce their digestive tract.

Mouldy food stuff
Mouldy food of any kind human or pet, contains a large number of toxins that can cause your pet to become extremely unwell. Unfortunately, over Christmas moulding food is inevitable with the Irish post writing that in 2019 around 42 million pounds worth of food is discarded over Christmas week alone.

To help avoid our pets accidently getting hold of any of the above items it is always helpful to “paws for thought”. Always keep the above foods well out of reach and clear up any spillage immediately and thoroughly, be sure to carefully dispose of any leftovers, where possible, in an outside lockable bin so that your pets are unable to gain access to them at all.

Christmas dog

Having said this there are some food that are safe to be given in very small amounts as a Christmas treat (as long as your dog is not allergic) including;

  • Turkey meant (NO skin or bones)
  • Salmon
  • Lamb meat (NO bones)
  • Green beans
  • Sprouts
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Swede
  • Mash Potatoes (without milk or butter)

REMEMBER that although these foods are safe for your pet to consume, they must be fed in moderation, as giving your dog lots of new foods can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and excessive consumption of high fat foods can lead to pancreatitis which will usually require a vet visit and potentially hospitalisation.

With 70% of our feline and canine friends also getting a Christmas gift from their owners. It’s important to remember that some human presents given over the holiday’s come with items that are not so pet friendly! Children’s toys in particular are incredibly appealing to our canine partners but can cause a choking or obstruction risk if chewed. Many of these automated toys also come with batteries which are especially corrosive and can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning if chewed or swallowed.

If you are concerned about your pets health over the festive period or are worried that your pets has gotten hold of something they shouldn’t have please contact your veterinary surgery immediately. Your surgery will have a designated out of hours or Christmas service to ensure that both you and your pets have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!