While it may be the most wonderful time of the year for many of the UK’s families, Christmas can actually be one of the most dangerous seasons for the nation’s pets.
Every year thousands of pets are rushed into veterinary practices across the country, after coming into contact with one of the numerous hazards Christmas brings with it.
From swallowing Christmas decorations to accidental poisonings caused from eating festive foods, vets often face a particularly busy period in the lead up to Christmas.
To help keep the number of emergency visits to veterinary practices to a minimum this year, vets are offering advice on how to best keep pets safe and healthy throughout the festive season.
Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “Christmas can be the most hectic time of the year for many people across the UK, but it’s important that we don’t forget about our pets, and keep an eye on them over the busy festive period.
“Vets often experience an influx in pets being brought into their surgeries throughout December, with one of the biggest issues being pets suffering from accidental poisoning, after ingesting Christmas treats.
“While most owners know how toxic chocolate can be to pets if eaten, there are a whole host of other classic Christmas foods that can make pets seriously ill, including raisins, nuts, grapes, Christmas pudding, mince pies, onions and garlic.
“It can very tempting to give our pets some leftover meat too, but this can be dangerous, as any remaining bones could be a choking hazard.
“Dogs in particular are likely to sniff and seek out any food, so it is therefore important that all Christmas foods are kept well out of the reach of our inquisitive pets to avoid any emergency trips to the vets in the middle of Christmas dinner.”
Kathy from Stroud experienced this firsthand after her terrier cross Millie managed to eat a mixture of alcohol-soaked dried fruit, which was intended for a Christmas cake.
Once Kathy realised what had happened, she rushed Millie to the vets, where she was treated with an aggressive fluid treatment for four days, only fully recovering from the severe poisoning a few weeks later.
But it isn’t just food that poses a threat, as Georgina found out after her inquisitive puppy Teddy managed to pull their Christmas lights from the tree and proceeded to eat them, whilst Georgina was upstairs.
Following an emergency operation to remove the lights, Teddy was allowed home after a few days to continue his recovery.
“Pets are naturally such inquisitive and curious creatures, and so they are likely to want to investigate any new objects and decorations around the house at Christmas,” continued Dr Stacey.
“A great tradition at Christmas for many families is decorating the house, with the tree becoming the centrepiece of the home, but this activity can bring a lot of risks to pets if not managed correctly.
“Cats love to climb, so make sure your tree is securely anchored so it can’t topple over, and make sure that all decorations, lights and wires, are well out of the reach of your pet so they can’t be tempted to nibble on them.
“Hoovering up pine needles is also important so they can’t get stuck in your pet’s paws or be a temptation for them to eat, leading to the needles becoming stuck in their throat.
“Many of the traditional Christmas plants are also very toxic to pets if ingested, such as mistletoe and poinsettia, so again make sure your they are well out of reach and keep an eye on your pets when around them.
“Finally, Christmas is a time for millions of families to come together, celebrating, having festive parties, pulling crackers and maybe even enjoying a few fireworks.
“All this commotion and noise can be very distressing for pets, so make sure you create a safe, cosy den for them in a quiet area of the house with all of their favourite toys, which they can easily escape to.
“Accidents and illnesses caused by Christmas hazards are easily preventable if owners take these simple precautions. That way owners and pets alike can then enjoy a merry Christmas together this year.”