As the festive season is fast approaching, the one thing we tend to hope for is health and happiness, with this in mind we want to give you all the information to try and keep your pet healthy and happy over Christmas. We never want our pets to become unwell, but with all the festivities around Christmas time, it is even more important to us for our pets to remain healthy. With additional food, objects and decorations around the house, we as pet owners need to be more vigilant in order to keep our animals safe and well.
Most people like to spoil their entire family around Christmas and for many, this includes their pets. This results in many pets getting very rich or unusual foods, as well as festive treats, such as items made from rawhide or pigs ears. These foods can often cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea, due to our pets gut not being able to cope with such a drastic change in diet. In more severe circumstances, foods like bones or rawhide can actually cause a blockage in their intestine which will result in emergency surgery and if left untreated could be fatal.
Non-food items can also cause gastrointestinal upset, as some pets, particularly the very young ones, can tend to eat items that cannot be digested. Such items include; fabric, wrapping paper and Christmas decorations. When eaten, these items can cause vomiting and diarrhoea but can cause more serious issues such as blocking the intestine again requiring surgery. If young, old or vulnerable pets have persistent vomiting or diarrhoea they usually require hospitalisation to help them recover and treat dehydration.
Many of the traditional foods that we indulge in over Christmas which are safe for us humans are not safe for our pets. Some of these foods include alcohol, chocolate (especially dark chocolate) and foods containing raisins such as mince pies, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding. In most circumstances, our pets get access to these foods accidentally so by taking these steps we can help avoid the ingestion of these toxic products.
- Do not leave gifts of chocolates, Christmas puddings or hampers containing food under the Christmas tree, our dogs have an excellent sense of smell and many will dig through packaging to get to the treasure inside!
- Leave treats for Santa out of reach of your pets, very often people leave a mince pie and a glass of alcohol out for Santa, although it’s important he gets his sustenance, we do not want our pets getting there first. Rather than leaving them beside the fireplace, it would be safer to find a higher location such as a table.
- Do not leave pets unattended in the kitchen when there is cooking going on. I know in my house Christmas eve and Christmas day results in slightly hectic meal preparation with lots of lovely foods sitting on the kitchen table of counter. Many pets do not have great self-control when it comes to this level of temptation and we have had many cases coming into the clinic where a pet has stolen a large amount of the Christmas dinner which has resulted in a very upset gut or even worse, poisoning from eating an inappropriate food!
Fatty foods (pancreatitis):
Pancreatitis in dogs is a significant illness and is considered to be the most common disease of the exocrine pancreas. Pancreatitis symptoms can vary massively and can result in a patient requiring ICU hospitalisation. If pancreatitis is not caught early and treated correctly, it can lead to death.
There are a wide range of symptoms associated with pancreatitis, with the most common being; decreased or no appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, lack of energy and enthusiasm, diarrhoea and dehydration. Obese or overweight dogs are more at risk along with terrier and other non-sporting breeds. Around Christmas, we see a drastic increase in cases of pancreatitis due to pets having access to high-fat diets or consuming unusual food. A pancreas never fully recovers from pancreatitis as the condition causes changes to occur to the cells within the pancreas, this can result in patients requiring a prescription diet or medication to help them digest foods properly. Because of this, it is vital to avoid this condition rather than to try and cure it. The most effective way to avoid pancreatitis is by not giving your pet any of the rich foods which we as humans like to indulge in around the festive period.
Another risk factor this time of year for your pet is the cold weather. Although Ireland does not have extreme weather conditions like Canada or other parts of Europe, the temperatures are too cold at night for our pets. Very often people may think that because our cats or dogs have a thick furry coat and a kennel that they will be ok during the cold nights, this in fact is not the case. Animal shelters should be insulated, dry and draught free, with thick bedding available but it is safest to take your pet indoors at night to prevent hypothermia. Hypothermia results in your pet being lethargic, disinterested and they may develop a shiver.
Grit on roads
It is also worth remembering that when there is ice, there is often salt spread on the road and footpaths, this can irritate your pet’s paws or cause health problems if they lick the salt off their skin. To prevent these issues we advise rinsing your pet’s paws after a walk.
We hope you and your pet have a safe and happy Christmas.
Should you need our assistance over the festive period, please see our opening hours and contact details for all our clinics below.