Is Christmas Hazardous to our Dogs?
It’s that time of year again, and I’ve started eating mince pies…which got me thinking…’is Christmas hazardous to dogs’? One of the best known examples is chocolate, we know that it is a danger to our furry friends, and copious amounts will be consumed at Christmas, often boxes piled high and left out on tables. So what other festive hazards should be be mindful of when we have a dog?
Once I started doing my research I was astonished at how many ‘hidden’ dangers there were around Christmas time. Many are food products and even festive plants which are poisonous to your pet, some are objects which are potentially dangerous if chewed or ingested.
It is really important to keep our pets safe in the home at all times, and if you think your dog has chewed or eaten something which has the potential to make them unwell, consult a veterinarian as soon as you can.
What Christmas hazards may be around your home?
Top of the list is food stuffs. At Christmas we tend to eat more of certain foodstuffs, and many of these can be harmful to your dog.
- Chocolate – as I mentioned earlier, Chocolate is the first toxic substance that comes to my mind, and probably yours too. It contains a chemical called theobromine, which is a little like caffeine. If ingested, it can cause symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, heart problems and even death. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be. Keep it well out of the way at all costs and seek a vets attention if any is consumed.
- Grapes and dried fruits – currants, sultanas and raisins along with grapes, are harmful to dogs and potentially cause kidney failure. Products containing them at yuletide include mince pies, Christmas cake and pudding. Keep them well away from your dog.
- Onions – I only learned of this recently about onions, (and other forms of the allium species like garlic, leeks, shallot). They can damage red blood cells and cause anaemia in dogs which can be life threatening. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite. Foods containing onions or garlic such as stuffing and gravy shouldn’t be given to your dog.
- Alcohol – a festive treat for many – but beware your furry friends. If accidentally drunk to excess, much as in humans it can cause low blood sugar, drowsiness, and coma so don’t leave any glasses lying around.
- Macadamia nuts – Can cause weakness, tremors, vomiting and hyperthermia, and cause lameness/pain on walking. Why this happens is not certain.
- Artificial sweetener – sweeteners including xylitol can induce the body to produce insulin which can then cause low blood sugar in dogs, and liver damage. Damage can be minimised if treated quickly.
- Blue cheese – many blue cheeses contain something called roquefortine C, which many dogs appear sensitive to and in extreme causes it may cause muscle tremor and seizures.
- Bones – cooked bones are brittle and easily splinter, so make sure that if you are feeding any meat to your dog, it has been thoroughly checked first, and carefully dispose of the carcass (who doesn’t know a dog who’s raided the bin before…)
It would appear that Christmas is a hazard just by foodstuffs alone. But it isn’t all bad. Thanks to BlueCross for this helpful list of safe to eat tasty Christmas leftovers for your dog:
- Turkey meat (no skin or bones)
- Salmon (fillets or cooked in spring water are preferable to smoked salmon)
- Lamb meat (no bones)
- Scrambled egg
- Green beans
- Brussel sprouts
- Mash potato (best without additional butter)
- New potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Yogurt (providing it doesn’t contain xylitol)
- Christmas trees – I’ve often wondered if ‘real’ trees are dangerous? The answer is, that pine needles can cause stomach upset if ingested, but what’s probably worse is that these needles are sharp, and therefore pose the risk of cuts in the mouth or at worse, damage to the intestine.
- Poinsettia – may cause stomach irritation with excessive salivation and vomiting
- Holly – berries may cause stomach upset, leaves are spiky and hurt the mouth
- Mistletoe – Berries may cause stomach upset, but it is important to say that the species native to the Americas (Phoradendron flavescens) is far more toxic than the native European species.
- Ivy – may cause stomach upset, and prolonged skin contact may cause a contact dermatitis. (Again, to point out this is different to the American poison Ivy which isn’t commonly found in the UK)
- Potpurri – toxic in varying amounts due to different dried plants used, but vomiting, diarrhoea or obstruction (i.e from larger items like pine cones).
Christmas Decorations and Presents
- Tree decorations – tinsel may cause obstruction, and glass baubles may shatter and sharp fragments pose a real danger to the gut. Try and avoid glass decorations, and put tinsel and chocolate decorations out of reach.
- Fairy lights – if chewed may of course produce an electrical shock, so try and keep cabling out of reach.
- Wrapping paper – eating large amounts of paper has the potential to cause a blockage in the stomach, so dispose of it carefully after opening gifts.
- Batteries – a hazard to children and pets! Batteries when ingested can corrode in the gut leading to chemical burns and poisoning by heavy metals. Be extra cautious of button batteries which can also get stuck in the throat.
- Silica gel – those little sachets often found in the box which say ‘do not eat’ – although non toxic may cause gut obstruction. They are put in packages like electricals, shoes and handbags and are there to keep items dry by absorbing moisture.
It is fair to say after reading this list, that Christmas hazards are pretty numerous. Some you may be well aware of, and some may have caught you by surprise as they have with me. I hope therefore that those hidden dangers can be avoided, and we can all have a safe and fun filled festive season.