Most pet owners are well-aware of this already, but it′s an easy one to forget at Christmas. Those bars of Toblerone or boxes of your favourite chocolate treats, wrapped nicely under the tree, can be highly toxic to your dog (or cat), even in small quantities.
According to the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), the alkaloid ‘theobromine’, found in the cacao plant, is what makes chocolate toxic for dogs.
A standard 200g block of dark chocolate contains around 1400mg of theobromine – potentially enough to kill a small dog of around 7-14kg, and cause tremors and seizures in large dogs above 20kg. Avoid it at all costs.
Adding a dash of nutmeg to your eggnog this Christmas? Don′t fling it around – it′s actually one of the lesser known poisonous foods and can cause dogs to suffer from tremors, seizures, issues with the nervous system and even death.
Grapes and raisins.
Thanks to the traditional plum pudding, not to mention mince pies, Kiwis probably consume more raisins at Christmas time than through the entire remainder of the year! Both raisins and grapes, though, can cause acute kidney failure in your dog.
“Fruit mince contains raisins and grapes, both of which are toxic to dogs,” says Dr Cath Watson, president of NZVA’s Companion Animal Society. “The mechanism of toxicity is considered unknown, but consumption of these fruits can result in rapid loss of kidney function and anuria (lack of urine production). Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep all sweets out of dogs’ reach.”
Avocados are a popular Christmas treat. But they also contain a dangerous toxin which can damage the heart, lungs and tissue of many different animals, including Fido. Fortunately the effect in dogs is usually mild – definitely keep avocados away from any pet birds though!
These popular Christmas nuts can also be toxic to dogs. Symptoms generally present within 12 hours and can include vomiting, hyperthermia and elevated heart rate. Keep in mind any nutty treats wrapped under the tree!
Onions and garlic.
It′s amazing what some dogs will crunch into; both onions and garlic can cause gastric irritation and anaemia if eaten in large quantities, so be mindful of this when preparing turkey stuffing or Christmas vegetables.
Turkey skin, pork crackling, sausages and fatty meats.
All delicious, but they can all lead to inflammation of the pancreas due to high fat content. They′re not the great for owners, either! To put it into context with a human example, the NZVA advises that a small dog eating one sausage is equivalent to a person eating 14 sausages!
“Don’t allow dogs to eat scraps and ensure they can’t reach the barbeque while any meat is on it,” advises Dr Watson. “Pancreatitis may occur when fatty meat is consumed and a dog’s digestive enzymes are activated in the pancreas, rather than the stomach. This causes severe inflammation of the pancreas which results in vomiting and pain.”
Christmas tis the season to be jolly and we tend to do it with beer, wine and bubbles. But even small amounts of alcohol can kill a pet. Half-empty glasses, spilled drink – even fermented foods – keep them out of reach.
The best treat you can give your pet over Christmas is quality pet treats from your vet clinic, pet store or supermarket that contain the right nutrients to keep them healthy. Another “treat” to buy for your pet for Christmas is potentially a good-quality pet insurance policy – just in case.
If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic you should contact your veterinarian immediately.