Vets warn of festive perils for pets

Are your pets Christmas-ready?

Are your pets Christmas-ready?

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Leading vets are urging pet owners to watch out for potential hazards to their pets this Christmas, as findings released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal 80% of vets saw at least one case of toxic ingestion in pets during the last festive period.

Across the UK, chocolate poisoning in dogs was the most common cause of toxic ingestion at Christmas, with 73% of vets seeing at least one case.

Several vets in BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey said that, despite owners’ best intentions, their pets had been poisoned after gifts containing chocolate were placed under the Christmas tree with the owner unaware of the potential peril for their pet lurking beneath the wrapping.

Many cats also suffered toxic ingestion last Christmas, with a quarter of vets treating cats for antifreeze poisoning. A further one in five vets also treated cats for ingestion of poisonous plants, including lilies, which can be fatal. Lily and other pollens can get stuck on cats’ fur and are usually ingested, accidentally, when they groom themselves. Ingesting any part of the lily can result in life threatening kidney issues for cats. Curious cats may also be tempted to sample the new house plants’ berries, such as holly or mistletoe, which can also lead to stomach upsets and vomiting.

British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz, said: “Christmas is typically a fun and chaotic time, with presents and treats often arriving in our homes. Many pet owners are aware of the risks of chocolate poisoning to their pets but, as our survey shows, it’s easy to be caught out by a box of chocolates left on the side that curious animals can find hard to resist. If you suspect your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t then don’t delay in contacting your local vet.”

To keep Christmas merry for the whole household, BVA is urging animal-lovers to ensure their home is safe for four-legged friends by following these five simple tips:

1. Protect your pet from poisons – a number of festive treats and traditions, such as chocolate, raisins, xylitol (found in sugar free treats), nuts, grapes, liquorice, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are toxic to cats and dogs.

2. Keep decorations out of reach – ribbons, wrapping paper, baubles, tinsel and tree lights can all prove irresistible to cats and dogs but can be very dangerous if broken, chewed or swallowed. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept safe as, if ingested, they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach.

3. Forget festive food for pets – we all enjoy a richer diet over Christmas, but fatty foods and Christmas dinners shouldn’t be shared. They can trigger indigestion, sickness and diarrhoea or even conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, so try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine. Bones, including turkey bones, should not be given to pets as they can splinter and puncture the digestive tract.

4. Give toys not treats – we all want our pets to share the fun and many of us include a gift for our pet on the shopping list. But too many treats can lead to fat, unhappy animals so consider opting for a new toy, or a long walk if you want to indulge your pet this Christmas.

5. Know where to go – even with all the care in the world, animal accidents and emergencies can still happen. Make sure you’re prepared by checking your vet’s emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours or, if you are away from home, use the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Find a Vet facility at http://www.findavet.org.uk/

For more information on pets and poisons download the free Animal Welfare Foundation ‘pets and poisons’ leaflet at www.bva-awf.org.uk/pet-care-advice/pets-and-poisons