Christmas Safety

The Do's and Don't's of Christmas with Pets!

The festive season can be a strange time for our pets.  Their usual home environment is filled with trees, flowers and other decorations and there are odd noises such as crackers and fireworks.  Your routine is likely to change and there may be unfamiliar visitors coming to the house. 
We have tried to give you a few of the most common Christmas dangers around the home for your pet below. It goes without saying, if in doubt about your pet’s health contact your vet and they will be able to advise you.

Food hazards

Chocolate, onions, nuts, blue cheese, fruit cakes, puddings and mince pies can all be toxic to cats and dogs.  Watch out for turkey bones as these can cause choking, constipation or cause damage to your pet’s intestines. 

Christmas trees and plants

Most species are low toxicity but may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and/or diarrhoea) if chewed. 
Tinsel and decorations can cause intestinal blockages if eaten and your pet may get a nasty shock if they chew through the electrical cable for your Christmas lights.  Lilies, holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are all toxic to cats so keep them out of their reach.  Artificial snow is toxic so best avoided.
Pine needles in themselves can get stuck in paws and cause irritation as well as potentially causing irritation or perforation of the intestines if eaten. Vacuum daily and ideally keep plenty of water in the bucket to help reduce the number of fallen needles.

Decorations

Christmas decorations are designed to look attractive and beautiful, unfortunately this usually means they are also tempting to your furry friends. Whilst not often toxic in their own right they can still cause significant problems if ingested. Baubles will tend to splinter or smash into shards which can cause irritation, perforation or blockages and dogs tend to eat tinsel a little like spaghetti - often consuming an entire ribbon of tinsel in one go! Again these are often not especially toxic (even if not particularly nutritious either) but can bunch up and cause blockages or, more worryingly start to work their way through the guts whilst some is still in the stomach, this effectively runs a thread through the intestines and causes a linear foreign body which can be extremely serious!
Your pet may also get a nasty shock if they chew through the electrical cable for your Christmas lights! 

Batteries

Ingestion of batteries is more common at this time of year.  If the battery is chewed and pierced it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning.  If they are swallowed whole it is possible they will cause an obstruction.  All batteries are potentially toxic so if you suspect your pet has chewed or swallowed a battery speak to your local vet.

Presents

One area where people can come unstuck is with Christmas presents. We put a lot of effort in hiding away potential problems but then wrap up auntie Flo’s big box of chocolates to place under the tree. Although we can no longer tell what it is... our pets can! Apart from the irritation of having them unwrap someone else’s present and having diarrhoea in the living room on Christmas day, there is likely to be an emergency trip to the vets needed. Make sure any tasty or tempting presents are placed high enough out of the way so that your pet can’t help themselves….

Anti-Freeze

Ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) ingestion is very dangerous. It is sweet-tasting and very palatable. Even a relatively small quantity can cause serious kidney damage and can be fatal.  Unfortunately, the longer the delay between ingestion of the anti-freeze and initiation of treatment the less favourable the prognosis.

General Well-being

With lots of people around the house, the excitement might be overwhelming for your pet – make sure they have a quiet place where they can relax and feel safe.
Remember pets can feel the chill too. Try to reduce the time they spend outside and don't be afraid to buy them a warm and cosy pet jacket if needed.
Provide a warm, dry shelter with thick bedding, and watch out for flare-ups of arthritis in older pets in particular.
Pets seek shelter when they’re cold – make sure no one is trapped in garages and underneath your car or in bonnets before starting the engine.