When it comes to Christmas, we all want to have a good time with our family, including our furry friends. However, there may be some unfortunate mishaps during the festive season.
This list of five common vet callouts over the festive period are just some of the issues natural dog food brand Harringtons vet Peter Wright, star of The Yorkshire Vet, sees in at his practice over the festive period, starting with a tasty human treat that can cause havoc for your dogs.
Chocolate is by far the most common Christmas Day and festive period emergency. With Halloween over, we all know the danger that chocolate poses to dogs, but do you know the reason why it’s so dangerous?
An odd chocolate or so is probably not going to do any harm, but a whole box or bar of chocolate can have very serious consequences. Chocolate contains a stimulant called Theobromine, which is safe for humans but not for our pets. Theobromine is much more concentrated in darker chocolate and, therefore, more dangerous.
Milder symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting and diarrhoea, but in more severe cases, they can develop seizures, major heart problems and or even die. So, what should you do if your dog eats chocolate? You should contact your vet for advice and do it sooner rather than later before the toxin is absorbed into the body from the stomach. The vet will give a powerful emetic to make them vomit the chocolate back up. If not seen quickly enough, your loyal companion may need to be admitted for more intensive supportive therapy.
On the numerous occasions when I have had to administer the emetic, I have noticed that many of the offending chocolates are still in their wrappers! So, make sure to store your sweet treats well out of reach, as wrappers are not a deterrent to your furry friend.
Christmas Fruit Cake and Mince Pies
Fruit cakes and mince pies are abundant over Christmas and full of what my wife calls “dead fruit”. These are typically dried fruits like raisins, sultanas and currants. She knows when taking such a call for me, it’s a case that cannot wait for normal clinic opening times.
It’s unknown why these mystery ingredients in “dead fruits” cause illness in pets, but it is well established that in some dogs, these tasty morsels have no effect whatsoever, whilst others become extremely ill or even die as a result of them because they can cause kidney failure.
Your dog may be one of the lucky ones who get away with it, but there is no way of knowing, so it is my job as a vet to make them vomit as soon as possible to rid the stomach of these potentially fatal ingredients.
Show me a dog that can resist such a feast when tasty, cooked meats are nearby. The issue is that cooked bones can be brittle, and sharp shards of bone can pierce a dog’s stomach or intestine. My advice if your dog has ingested cooked bones, is to bulk their regular food out with rice so that, hopefully, smaller pieces of bone can pass through the gut safely.
The problem then occurs when larger pieces of bone are devoured, which are small enough to be swallowed but are of sufficient size to cause a gastrointestinal blockage. In both cases, you must watch out for vomiting, often a day or two after the kitchen theft occurred. Vomiting is the cardinal sign to say all is not well with your dog’s tummy, and an urgent visit to disrupt your vet’s Christmas celebrations is required.
Such cases nearly always result in surgery to remove the bony culprit, along with a very unwelcome festive season vet’s bill.
Children’s plastic toys are another vet’s nightmare, particularly around Christmas time when new toys are scattered throughout the house with stressed and exhausted adults not having an ounce of energy left to get them out of harm’s way of an exploring canine friend.
Everything seems to be made of plastic these days, from small plastic items found in Christmas crackers to larger toys of all descriptions, which, for reasons only known to themselves, your four-legged family members often want to destroy.
If they swallow a little plastic toy with a smooth outline, it may be small enough to pass through their tummy, so you should monitor your dog’s poo over the next few days! If it is larger, or a piece chewed off some highly prized but now destroyed latest Christmas gift, if you can work out how much has been swallowed, it may be useful information to your vet, who will have to, at this point, put his Sherlock Holmes skills into operation.
The problem is that plastic will never break down in the stomach, so the size of the toy or fragment is very useful information to your vet so they can decide the best course of action to take.
Your four-legged friend will continue to look totally innocent and may remain very bright and well initially, but watch out for them looking hunched up due to tummy pain or vomiting and becoming increasingly miserable if the unfortunate toy (or part of a toy) causes a blockage. At this stage, your vet will probably suggest an operation to remove the offending material.
Tinsel isn’t great for us vets, but it can be particularly attractive to our feline friends.
A dangling piece of tinsel from a Christmas Tree may just look a little untidy to us, but to an inquisitive moggy already agitated and fed up with the festivities, it can look like a good game. To them, it may appear like a glistening length of spaghetti or string, which is always fair game.
Although tinsel is not toxic, it does damage in other ways. Due to cats having a roughened tongue, once the end of the tinsel is in their mouth, it is on a one-way trip to the stomach.
You are probably unaware that the misdemeanour has occurred until a few days later when they appear quieter than normal, a bit withdrawn and start to retch. The tinsel becomes entwined with food and hair from grooming to form a long, stringy foreign body, causing an intestinal blockage.
If left untreated, they can become seriously ill or even die, so surgical removal is needed to remedy the situation.
Christmas callouts such as these are common across the UK, and the message is to please keep our human food and toys well away from your beloved four-legged family members. Not only will it help keep your Christmas safe and fun for everybody including your curious pets, but it will also mean your vet can also have a quiet and relaxing Christmas.