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Ensuring a Happy Christmas for pets and owners

Christmas is a time for giving, but when it comes to pets you can never be too cautious about what they can and can’t eat. It might be difficult to resist those puppy dog eyes when you’re gorging on your own Christmas snacks, but its most probably for the best.

Sadly a lot of the foods we eat at Christmas are harmful to pets, whilst many others should only be enjoyed in moderation or with caution. There are also other potential hazards around the house at this time of year, from toys to alcohol, to decorations.

These tips from your team at Knutsford Vets will help ensure you make this Christmas enjoyable for all, without a trip to the emergency vet.

Our Emergency Vets Partner

If your pet encounters any of the dangers mentioned in this article, you’ll find all of the information you need about our emergency vets partner on our dedicated page.

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Foods that we eat around this time of year might seem like a treat for your pet, but they have the potential to ruin Christmas with a trip to the emergency vet or worse.

Human Foods

Christmas is a great time to enjoy some of those luxury items that we only buy once a year. Unfortunately, many of these items are harmful to pets so resist the temptation to give them a taste. We’ve collated a list of items that can be harmful to pets, even though we humans enjoy them so much.

As a general rule, don’t give anything to your pet other than meats (avoiding pork and ensuring bones are taken out) and cooked vegetables. Don’t give them too much as it may affect their digestion. If you give your pet anything they haven’t eaten before, do so in moderation so that you can see how they react to it. You’ll see the safe items for pets at the end of this section.

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Grapes and raisins

It’s still not known why cats and dogs find grapes poisonous but they can cause serious illness including kidney failure. Many dogs will become seriouslyvery ilunwelll after just one or two grapes, whilst others might need a whole bunch to have any effect. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea occurring as soon as two hours after ingestion. The best advice is to keep these out of reach of your dog. Remember, raisins are dried grapes and they have exactly the same effect.

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Mince pies and other festive cakes

Although you should avoid feeding your pet cakes in general, you should take extra care around Christmas. The majority of cakes at this time of year contain raisins, which we’ve already established are poisonous to pets. They may also contain other toxins including alcohol. Leave mince pies, Christmas pud and the brandy sauce well out of reach of your pet.

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Whether you receive chocolates as a present or buy the customary box for the whole family to enjoy, these are not something that your pets should eat. Chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs, causing an upset stomach or vomiting if they eat too much and at very high levels will cause neurological signs and seizures. Pets have also been known to ingest the wrappers, which can cause damage or obstructions internally.

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Slow cooked ham is a Christmas favourite in many British households, but you shouldn’t be tempted to feed it to your pets. Foods which are high in both salt and fat can cause your pet stomach ache and diarrhoea. Even if their stomach can tolerate it, their weight won’t. Pork has a much higher fat content than lean beef or chicken. The same applies to many other cured or processed meats, such as salami, bacon or sausages.

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If you give your cat or dog some turkey, then good on you, but ensure all bones are removed. This is one healthy way to let your pet enjoy Christmas with you, but the small bones in turkey can lodge in their digestive tract or cause them to choke. Make sure you carefully pick all of the bones out of the meat and don’t give them anything on the bone.

You might also be tempted to give your dog a big bone. There’s nothing wrong with your dog chewing on a bone from the pet shop or butchers, but once they’re cooked they can splinter. This can lead to fragments of them being swallowed which can cause issues as serious as perforating an organ or as mild as constipation. The tricky thing here is making sure you dispose of your bones properly, straight away. Seal them in a bag before putting them in the bin.

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Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause your dog to experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and hyperthermia when ingested. Symptoms can last from 12 hours to two days. You should always contact your vet if the amount eaten is significant. Keep macadamia nuts out of reach of your pets.

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Alcohol (obviously, but don’t leave leftovers overnight)

You obviously know that you shouldn’t give alcohol to your pets, but pets may drink alcohol from the floor or straight out of the glass if it tastes nice enough. It’s important that all alcohol is disposed of before you go to bed and that you don’t leave any unattended when your pet is around.

Ingestion of alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Aside from an empty glass, common signs of alcohol poisoning in pets include depression or lethargy, incoordination, vomiting and drooling.

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Dairy items

There’s a lot of dairy items knocking around at Christmas time, such as cheese, butter and cream. You should avoid feeding these to your pets or leaving them unattended. Dairy is a leading source of food intolerance in pets, so if your pet is allergic it could cause an upset stomach. Even if your pet is not intolerant, dairy products are high in fat and not healthy for our pets.

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We’d like to wish all of our clients a Merry Christmas and a safe Christmas for your pets.

Safe foods for pets

Even though there are a lot of dangers for pets around Christmas, it is still great to get them involved in the celebrations and even give them their own safe Christmas dinner. These things are all safe for pets to have. All new foods should be given in moderation as they have the risk to cause sickness or diarrhoea if your pet is allergic.

  • Turkey meat or chicken – take care to remove all bones and skin
  • Cooked salmon – not smoked salon which is high in salt
  • Lamb – take care to remove all bones
  • Scrambled egg – cats love this
  • Vegetables, including sprouts, parsnips, carrots, peas, swede, potatoes (mashed without butter)

There are also countless kinds of Christmas themed treats for pets, which can offer a fun and 100% safe treat for them around this time of year.

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Other things they might eat

With so much new and exciting stuff in our pets’ environment, it’s no wonder that they want to give it a taste. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your pet to ensure they don’t eat anything they shouldn’t do and if they do, you might need to seek veterinary assistance. Here are some common things that pets have been known to ingest during the festive period.

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Christmas Tree Pines

Christmas tree pines are low in toxicity and at worst will cause an upset stomach, however they can cause damage internally due to their sharp nature. They have been known to injure the digestive tract, which has the potential to be quite serious. With this in mind, you should avoid giving your pet access to any rooms with natural Christmas trees if they are unattended.

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Holly, mistletoe or other natural decorations

Many natural decorations can cause a hazard for our pets, especially if they have berries on. Holly is low in toxicity, but the berries can cause an upset stomach. Mistletoe berries are the same, with the European variety causing an upset stomach, whilst the American ones are far more dangerous.

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Potpourri can be extremely harmful to pets, causing sickness and even seizures. The effects may last a number of days and may require a stay at the vets to support their body and avoid dehydration. With this in mind, it’s best to avoid potpourri and opt for a safer alternative. If you do happen to have some, ensure that you keep it well out of reach of your pet.

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Silica Gels

You’ll have seen these little sachets in new shoes, handbags, wallets and a whole host of other things that are unwrapped over Christmas. Despite being labelled ‘Do Not Eat’ they are low in toxicity, but they can still cause an upset stomach if ingested. Best to throw them away as soon as you see them just in case.

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Small toys and board game pieces

It might be a good excuse for your Dad to use if he’s losing at Monopoly, but board game pieces or any other small toy pieces can be harmful to our pets. Don’t leave small toys, including those from Christmas crackers lying on the floor. Should your animal eat one, they should hopefully be able to pass it through without issue, but it is quite common for items such as this to lodge in the digestive tract and cause a serious obstruction. If this is the case it may require surgery to remove. Slightly bigger items can cause a serious risk of choking.

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Boxes or other packaging

Although there is no danger of poisoning, plastic packaging can cause a risk of injury if it breaks up in your pets mouth. The plastic can cut the skin around their mouth and if it breaks up they may choke on the pieces. Staples and adhesives may also cause issues. Throw packaging of any kind away and don’t let your dog play with it.

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Wrapping paper

Although wrapping paper is not toxic, the ink can discolour your pet’s mouth and the fur around their mouth. If they eat a lot of wrapping paper, it may cause their digestive tract to become blocked. Sellotape stuck to the paper may cause your pet to choke.

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If your pet becomes unwell and we are open, bring them to us immediately. For all out of hours emergency appointments, contact our emergency vets partners. Find out more below.

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Other general dangers

Our pets can be clumsy things, especially when they’re excited (and let’s face it, Christmas is exciting). With this in mind, it’s worth bearing these general dangers in mind around this time of year to keep your pet fighting fit and injury free.

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Supervise your relatives

One of the biggest dangers to your animal is over excited relatives, especially if they don’t own a dog or cat themselves. It’s important that they know the dangers so they don’t feel tempted to feed them “treats” that could be harmful to them. You should also ensure younger members of the family know how to behave around your pet to avoid them encouraging any unwanted behaviour for the animal. Whether it’s granny feeding your dog under the table or an over excited nephew playing with your cat, new people around the house can be unsettling for your pet’s stomach and behaviour.

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Over treating your pets

Remember that just because it’s Christmas, your pet’s weight is still important. Any special treats should be given in moderation to ensure they maintain a healthy weight. Read our safe list to know what your pet can and can’t eat. A high fat diet can cause pancreatitis and other illnesses, and cases of these illnesses have been known to increase in the time after Christmas.

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Christmas tree lights and other decorations

Christmas decorations of all kinds can cause a serious hazard for our pets. It’s important that you pet proof any decorations. We’ve all seen the hilarious videos of pets pulling over christmas trees and ruining lovely displays, but there is a more serious risk of injury in these cases. Tinsel, Christmas tree lights and other shiny objects can be confused with a toy, so best to supervise them at all times around the decorations.

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Emergency Vet Treatment

If the worst happens and your pet becomes seriously ill over Christmas, you might need to take them to the Emergency Vet. Our emergency partner is Vets Now and you can find out more about them here.

If they are ill as opposed to injured, we recommend that you scan their environment for potential poisons that they may have ingested. Are there any of the foods that we have mentioned open in the house that your pet may have accessed? Are any pieces missing from small toy sets? Is there Lego or other small toys in their environment? Have you fed them anything new in the last 24 hours?

The more information you have for the vet, the greater chance their treatment has to be effective. If the vet already has an idea of what they might be dealing with they can explore those options of diagnoses first.

If your pet is choking, you should first check the back of their mouth for anything causing an obstruction. Don’t waste any time if they are in trouble and take them to the emergency vets as soon as possible.

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