Although Christmas should be a relaxing, peaceful, family time, it’s often one of the busiest times of year for veterinary practices. The holiday season poses a host of hazards for our pets, and being aware of these means you can keep your pets happy and healthy throughout the holiday season.

  • Chocolate toxicity is more common during the festive season, as there’s more chocolate around the home. Dark chocolate is most dangerous to our pets, but any case of chocolate ingestion should be seen by the vet. Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, liver disease and even death. Remember, chocolate wrapped up as a present can be risky as it’s often placed under the tree. Dogs’ sensitive noses will smell the yummy chocolate through the wrapping paper. Chocolate Christmas tree decorations are also often easily accessible and a source of poison for our pets. Other sweets should also be avoided, as the artificial sweetener xylitol is exceptionally dangerous to our pets. Xylitol poisoning causes low blood sugar, seizures and death and is often found in low calorie or sugar free human treats.
  • Raisins are found in many Christmas treats – often chocolate covered or in mince pies. These are very toxic to our pets and can cause serious injury to their kidneys. Again, any suspected raisin ingestion should be reported to your vet. Grapes, onions, garlic and blue cheese are also toxic to animals, so make sure before you fall asleep in front of the telly, that the cheese board and port are out of reach!
  • Holly, ivy, mistletoe and poinsettias look beautiful at Christmas time, but again cause varying degrees of toxicity if eaten by our pets. Ensure these plants are out of reach of any pets and again report any ingestion to the vets. Although not a traditional Christmas plant, Lilies are incredibly toxic to cats and even if your cat brushes against a lily plant, veterinary advice should be sought.
  • Many of us enjoy a little cocktail at Christmas time, but it’s important to make sure that alcoholic drinks are kept well out of the reach of our pets. Ingestion of alcohol causes weakness, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea. It can even result in coma and death.
  • As we are all getting into the festive spirit, it’s tempting to feed our pets any Christmas leftovers to allow them to share in the celebration. However, this can cause serious problems, as pets can suffer from a painful condition called pancreatitis if they are fed too much fat. This condition can leave lasting effects on pets and can make them very poorly indeed. Dogs and cats are often keen to eat leftovers that contain bones, which can lead to gut impaction and perforation.
  • It’s always wise to consider the safety of our pets when we put up our Christmas tree every year. Make sure you place your tree in an area where your pet can’t pull it down – heavy trees can cause crush injuries to pets. If you are having a real tree, it’s probably wise to place it in a pet free area. Pine needles can cause gut perforations and chemicals and fertilisers used in the water supply to the tree can be fatal. Also, if pets drink stagnant water such as that at the tree base, this can pose a whole host of problems.
  • Christmas tree decorations can also cause a variety of problems. Wires, lights and cables are always around the house at Christmas time, but dogs, cats and house rabbits can enjoy chewing on these. Christmas tree decorations made of glass can also cause injury both if eaten or smashed and trodden on. Tinsel is beautiful around the house at Christmas, but cats find it an incredibly attractive eye-catching toy. Tinsel can cause gut impaction if eaten.
  • As always, candles pose a fire risk and burn risk to our pets. They can also make respiratory conditions in cats worse. Always keep candles safely away from pets.
  • Too much of the Christmas spirit can often lead us to reach for the ibuprofen and paracetamol. Please remember that these drugs are incredibly toxic to dogs and cats. They should be kept completely out of reach of any of our pets and if ingested your pet should be taken to the vets immediately.
  • Christmas can be a very stressful time for our pets. With new people visiting our homes, lively parties and changes in routine. Loud noises can really upset some pets. Crackers, fireworks and parties can all scare our pets and make them sad during the festive time. If you think your pet may have a noise phobia, it’s really important to chat to your vet well in advance of the Christmas period. They’ll be able to advise you of some practical steps (eg. creating dens) to help your pet. They may also prescribe medications or recommend any supplements that they feel may help.
  • At such a busy time, it can be very easy to overlook your pets’ preventative healthcare measures. Worming treatments, flea treatments and vaccinations should be continued throughout the festive period, so it’s sensible to mark on the calendar when all of these are due. If your pet is on any long term medication, please contact your vet well in advance to ensure that you have a plentiful supply of medicine as they’ll probably be closed during the holiday period. This will save you a very expensive out of hour’s consultation.

Probably one of the wisest measures that you can take to keep your furry family healthy through the holiday period is to ensure you know the opening times of your local vet. Your vet will also have an emergency number for you to contact should you need them whilst your practice is closed, so make sure you have this number to hand and have a happy holiday!


Leave a Reply