The 12 dangers of Christmas

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Christmas is the time for loads of tasty treats, with tables spread as far as the eye can see with delicious mountains of food. There’s big hearty roasts, decadent desserts, and I personally like to eat my own body weight in chocolate.

I don’t think I’m alone in pre-emptively making that classic new year’s resolution/self-deluding lie that I WILL lose the extra kilos I intend to pack on with all this awesomeness. But weight gain, although a health issue in itself and terribly embarrassing for our four-legged counterparts, isn’t the only problem they experience from all these scrumptious delights…

I die a little inside every time a miserable pet crawls (or is carried) into my consult room having overindulged in a nice lamb roast or some sausages off the barbie. Fatty or very rich foods are not well tolerated by pets and are a fast track to pancreatitis. This is a potentially fatal condition that at best will result in a few days hospitalisation (cha-ching) and at worst a very sad memory of the festive season.

It is also very common. Do your pets a favour and slap anyone on the hand (or where ever you see fit) that tries to feed them off the Christmas table. Not pointing any fingers. Dad.

We all know about cooked bones too, right? How often do we feed them to our fur-friends? Say it with me – NEVER. They are brittle, splinter easily and can obstruct and/or perforate gastrointestinal tracts. Why in the actual heck would you risk that! Other naughty festive foods that have the potential to make pets very ill include mince pies and Christmas pudding.

NO CHOCOLATE – EVER EVER! Ever, ever, ever, ever!

Yes, some of us vets and vet nurses do enjoy the scent of chocolate vomit, as we hastily induce emesis in your Labrador that just got into a giant bag of m&ms, but maybe next time you feel like giving us a gift you could just give us some chockies that aren’t partially digested. Just say’n…

Theobromine is the substance in chocolate that makes our pets ill, and the darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine. An average size dog need only ingest a few squares of dark chocolate to get sick. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, loss of balance, and seizures.

This can lead to death. If you think your pet may have eaten chocolate contact your vet immediately.
So tinsel and ribbons and pretty little baubles for the tree can be unbearably tempting for dogs and cats alike, and can end up in lodged in little bellies.

Yes, the picture above is my own dog, Anika. I hang my head in shame! So do as I say, not as I do, and ensure nothing of this sort is accessible to furry family members.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, your ornaments are history!

Any cat owner knows cats luuuuurve shiny, sparkly things on strings. Your vet really doesn’t relish the thought of extracting a foot or two of tinsel from Kitty’s intestines during late December though. Strings of lights can also be tempting and dangerous.

Options to make things a bit safer for our canine companions include putting a playpen around the Christmas tree and/or placing all ornaments etc high enough to be out of reach. Our feline friends, however, will most likely laugh in the face of such measures. Lucky they get nine lives I suppose.

I do love a real Christmas tree – to me the smell brings back all the excitement and joy of jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn and waking mum and dad to see what Santa’s brought (big shout out to mum and dad and their extremely selfish rule of no presents before 6 am). If your pet has a penchant for spikey green delicacies and decides to indulge in some tasty pine needles though, say hello to vomiting and diarrhoea.

Holly can cause severe tummy trouble or worse if ingested, and same with mistletoe which can further lead to collapse and death. Poinsettias can irritate the mouth and stomach and sometimes also cause vomiting. Keep in mind that these traditional Christmas plants can also affect your two-legged kids if they decide to gobble them up.

Some of these things aren’t unique to Chistmas, but deserving of a mention nonetheless. Feel free to copy the pic and share it with nanna, who you just know is going to sneak the dog some nice pork crackling, or with uncle Rod who thinks it’s funny to feed beer to other peoples’ pets.

So take off all your clothes…

So another thing to mention for my fellow Australians and other friends south of the equator. The festive season is in the peak of summer for us, so keep those pets safe from the scorching heat, ensure they always have access to clean fresh water, and never ever leave an animal in a hot car.

And just one more thing…

Giving pets as surprise gifts is both wrong and unawesome. Choosing to welcome an animal into your home for the entirety of it’s life is a huge decision that shouldn’t be made on impulse or by anyone other than the person who is going to be responsible for it. Animal shelters overflow with unwanted pets after Christmas and this is heartbreaking.

On a lighter note, I hope you all made it onto Santa’s nice list this year and have wonderful, happy holidays. Stay safe and give your pet a hug from me.

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