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Christmas Risks – Food & Plant Poisons

To keep your pets safe this Christmas, Spike has come up with a list of things to avoid during the celebrations.

Spike says… Christmas is a time for having fun and stuffing your face with food and my dogie friends would very much like to join in with these celebrations. But the festive season also presents a time of increased risk from poisonous foods and seasonal plants….

Spike’s List Of Foods & Plants To Avoid

 

  • Christmas foods including chocolate, grapes and some nuts.

  • Foods like Christmas pudding, gravy and mince pies.

  • Plants such as poinsettia, mistletoe and holly can cause upset stomachs

  • Cigarettes and alcohol left lying around at parties are dangerous

  • Other festive goods such as decorations, wrapping paper and potpourri also present a risk.

FOOD AND DRINK:

Chocolate

Rich in theobromine – a bit like caffeine, chocolate is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause agitation, hyper-excitability and heart problems. The darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine. Baking chocolate is the most dangerous. It should be avoided completely. Just 3.5 g/kg of plain or dark chocolate or 14 g/kg milk chocolate will cause signs of poisoning. White chocolate has insufficient theobromine to cause toxicity, but it can pose a potential risk of pancreatitis. Avoid putting any chocolate on, or under the Christmas tree and don’t forget coffee tables.  Pet proof your pressies as the temptation is often too great for my four legged friends.

Christmas pud and mince pies

Grapes and dried versions (currants, sultanas and raisins) are all toxic to dogs. Eating even a small amount can cause kidney failure. Don’t forget this will include food items like chocolate-coated raisins which also run the additional risk of chocolate toxicity.

Gravy

Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the group of plants and can cause toxicity, whether uncooked or cooked. Initially there can be vomiting and diarrhoea but the main effect is damage to red blood cells, leading to anaemia. This may not be apparent for several days after these items been consumed.

Alcohol

Alcohol can have a similar effect in dogs as it does in their owners. They can become wibbley wobbly and drowsy. In severe cases, there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma. Dogs may help themselves to any unattended alcohol left lying around over Christmas, so ensure it’s always safely out of reach.

Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, high temperature, tremors, lameness and stiffness in dogs.

Leftovers

If there are any leftovers at Christmas, dispose of them carefully.  Keep these food items out of the reach of my doggy friends. Not only may they contain ingredients that are toxic (see above), but mould in leftovers (including yoghurt, bread and cheese) can lead to convulsions.

Artificial sweeteners

A sugar-free sweetener, xylitol, is often found in the sweets at Christmas, as well as chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpastes and supplements. It is poisonous to dogs and, although the amounts in different products vary, even one to two pieces of chewing gum can cause signs of toxicity in a small dog. It can stimulate release of insulin in the body, resulting in low blood sugar and sometimes liver damage. Signs of poisoning can be rapid or slow to appear and include vomiting, lethargy, convulsions and comas. The prognosis is good if the low blood sugar is treated quickly.

Poinsettia plants

Can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach with overproduction of saliva and sometimes vomiting.

Holly

Holly berries may result in a stomach upset.

Mistletoe

European mistletoe berries may result in an upset stomach. The American species of the plant is more poisonous.

Christmas trees

Stomach upset can be caused if dogs eat pine needles, but the sharp tips can cause damage internally.

Ivy

Used in wreaths and decorations ivy causes a tummy upset when ingested. Where there is significant or prolonged skin contact, they can also cause contact and allergic dermatitis.

Silica gel

Those small sachets, often found in packaging, although labelled ‘Do not Eat’ are considered to be of low toxicity

Christmas decorations

Plastic, paper or foil are of low toxicity although may obstruct the stomach. Glass decorations could pose a risk if chewed or swallowed.

Wrapping or crepe paper

Eating may cause staining in the mouth which may look alarming, but the toxicity is considered to be low. But if your dog eats a large amount, it could cause an obstruction to the stomach.

Candles

Although candles, even scented ones, are of low toxicity, eating them could potentially block the intestine or cause choking. 

Potpourri

If eaten, potpourri can cause significant gastrointestinal upset and may last several days even after it has passed through.

Cigarettes

Nicotine is toxic and cigarette butts are especially dangerous – do not leave any ashtrays in reach of dogs, or on the floor where they may eat them. Nicotine replacement patches and e-cigarette refills are also a risk. Symptoms include vomiting, excess saliva and high blood pressure.