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We wish you a Merry (and safe) Christmas...

Date: 16 December 2015  |  Author: Holly Sadler

Tags: accident & emergencycatschristmasdogspoisonswinter

This time of year is a cause for family time, celebration and over-indulgence. But with all this excess food in the house are you aware which could be particularly hazardous to your pets?

 

  • Grapes/raisins: that includes any items that contain these ingredients, such as Christmas cake and mince pies. The toxic mechanism is poorly understood, and toxic levels vary, meaning one dog could eat a whole Christmas pudding and be fine, and another could ingest just a few grapes and go into kidney failure a few days later. So don’t risk it.
  • Chocolate: chocolate contains a substance called theobomine, a chemical similar to caffeine. The darker the chocolate the more theobromine it contains (therefore white chocolate is unlikely to cause any harm). Ingestion can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and may then lead onto excitability, tremors and life-threatening heart problems.
  • Onions: onions and other species of the Allium family, including garlic, shallots, leeks and chives are all toxic to dogs. They contain a substance that damages red bloods cells and can cause life threatening anaemia. Signs to watch out for include weakness, lethargy, discoloured urine and rapid breathing. Avoid dishes containing cooked onion as well, including left over spag bol or onion gravy.
  • Xylitol: this artificial sweetener is found in many sugar-free sweets and chewing gums. Ingestion can cause a healthy dog’s blood glucose levels to suddenly drop to a dangerous level and larger amounts can cause liver failure. Symptoms include lethargy, weakness and collapse.
  • Macadamia nuts: these nuts are toxic only to dogs, although the mechanism of toxicity is unknown. Ingestion of only a small amount can cause symptoms, which include vomiting, weakness, wobbliness (ataxia), depression and hyperthermia. Treatment is usually symptomatic and the toxicity is non-fatal.
  • Lillies: every part of the lily is toxic to cats, leaves and all. Even exposure to a small amount (ie pollen on the coat that the cat licks when it grooms) can cause life-threatening kidney failure.
  • Anti-freeze: this contains a substance called ethylene glycol which is severely toxic to cats. Anti-freeze can taste quite sweet, so spills in garages can be tempting for a cat to lick up. Even ingestion of a small amount can be fatal, so immediate veterinary treatment is essential. Symptoms are acute in onset and include vomiting, depression, ataxia, tremors and increased thirst and urination.
  • Cooked meat bones: it may be tempting to let your Labrador devour the turkey leftovers, but cooked bones can be extremely hazardous to pets. They splinter easily and sharp edges can pierce the stomach or intestinal wall leading to life-threatening leakages. Those that do feed raw bones as a treat or part of a raw food diet should also be aware of choking hazards and risk of fractured teeth (yes I have seen this on many occasion).

 

If you do suspect your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t, always call your vet for advice. Remember telephone advice, day or night, is free, and could save your animal’s life. Never attempt to make your animal vomit at home unless advised to do so by a vet, as some substances if then accidentally inhaled into the lungs can be even more hazardous. When seeking veterinary advice, always remember to have the name of the substance to hand and ideally a rough amount and time of ingestion. Basic decontamination treatment includes making the animal vomit (inducing emesis) by injection of a drug called apomorphine. The animal will then most likely be given some activated charcoal orally (in the form of a black liquid) and you may be given some to continue at home – this helps to absorb any more of the toxin in the gastrointestinal tract. Depending on the toxin, some animals may need more aggressive treatment such as intra-venous fluids and a stay in hospital.

So here’s wishing everyone a very merry, and hopefully poison-free, Christmas!

About Dr Holly Sadler