Vets warn pet owners to keep edible festive hazards out of paws’ reach

Vets are urging pet owners to add pet-proofing to their Christmas to-do lists to avoid an unnecessary emergency trip to the vets over the festive period.

The advice comes as BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey findings reveal that eight in ten companion animal vets (80%) across the UK saw at least one case of toxic ingestion over the Christmas break last year.

Chocolate, raisins and other dried fruit commonly found in mince pies, xylitol (found in sugar-free products), onion and garlic and seasonal decorations like mistletoe and holly can be dangerous to dogs and cats if eaten.

Chocolate treats remain top of the list of edible hazards for dogs, with 72% of companion animal vets reporting seeing at least one case of this type of poisoning over the last festive period. This was followed by cases of toxic ingestion of raisins/sultanas (reported by 63% of vets) and onion or garlic (15%).

In addition, the average number of cases of all types of toxic ingestion in dogs has increased steadily over the last five years, with cases of chocolate poisoning increasing by 50% and those of raisin/sultana poisoning almost doubling.

Cats are also no strangers to emergency trips to the vet at Christmas. BVA’s survey found that around one in six vets had treated a cat for antifreeze poisoning (17%) last year and around one in eight (12%) for poisoning by seasonal plants such as lilies and poinsettia. Unlike dogs, the average number of cases reported for each toxin is at a five-year low.

Edible treats aside, festive decorations such as tinsel and fairy lights can also be a hazard if hung within reach of a family pet. More than a quarter of vets surveyed (28%) had seen at least one such case over Christmas last year.

BVA president Daniella Dos Santos said: “Our advice to owners is to keep festive goodies such as chocolate advent calendars, mince pies or Christmas puddings safely out of reach of inquisitive pets. If you are concerned that they have eaten something they shouldn’t, consult your vet straight away.”

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