Farthings warn of pet owners of perils beneath the Christmas tree

Farthings Vet Group, Horsham, is urging pet owners to watch out for potential hazards to their pets this Christmas, as findings released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal that in the South East 82% of vets saw at least one case of toxic ingestion in pets during the 2015 period.

Across the UK, chocolate poisonings 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.

Katherine Gist, vet surgeon, from Farthings Vet Group said: “Every year we see a rise in poisoning cases around the festive period, and sometimes the consequences can be fatal. These are largely preventable so our emphasis is on trying to educate our clients in the specific dangers their pets may be exposed to. We are always happy to take telephone calls from concerned owners and will make sure cases that require treatment are seen without delay, day or night.”

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 kind gift left under the tree which curious animals can find hard to resist. Our advice is for givers to tell, and owners to ask, if there is anything edible in gifts. 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, Farthings Vets 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 sickness and diarrhoea or other 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 pets which can have serious consequences for their health, 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 www.findavet.org.uk. At Farthings we offer 24 hour emergency care all through the holidays and are contactable via our usual number – 01403 252900.

For more information on pets and poisons download the free Animal Welfare Foundation ‘pets and poisons’ leaflet.