Veterinarians are calling on dog owners to be extra vigilant this festive season as a recent survey reveals a surge in the number of cases of dogs consuming potentially toxic human foods.
The survey, conducted December 1-2, 2014, by pet insurance company Direct Line, reveals more than eight in 10 (86 percent) vets have treated dogs for ingesting harmful human food in the last year. Almost three quarters (74 percent) say this issue is particularly prevalent at Christmas, with significant increases in the number of cases compared to any other time of the year.
Over half of vets surveyed (57 percent) reported seeing cases involving chocolate, which is potentially fatal to dogs. In many instances these harmful foods were not deliberately given to pets, but accidentally consumed.
Many vets attribute the rise in harmful consumption over the festive season to greater quantities of potentially toxic foods around the home. With human treats like chocolate, sweetbreads, and mince pies often easily accessible and owners frequently distracted, the festive period can be a potentially dangerous time for dogs.
The most common types of harmful human food ingested by dogs over the Christmas period include:
- Grapes, raisins (found in mince pies, sweetbreads, and )
- Scraps from roast dinners (onion in stuffing)
- Fatty meats
- Sugarless candies and sweets (especially those containing xylitol)
- Alcohol (including desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast)
“It is concerning to see so many cases of dogs eating harmful human foods as there are serious health implications if consumed in certain quantities,” says Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse at Direct Line.
“If you suspect that your dog has eaten something harmful, like chocolate, raisins, or onions, see a vet immediately. At Christmas, we may think our dogs, like us, deserve a treat, but just make sure that this is specifically designed for dogs, otherwise we may be doing more harm than good.”
Giving chocolate to a dog can cause serious harm as it contains a substance called theobromine. Similar to caffeine, the stimulant is poisonous to dogs and can affect the heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms can occur from four hours after ingesting chocolate and can include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate and seizures.
Along with avoiding chocolate, owners should avoid feeding dogs grapes, raisins, onions or garlic and ensure that dishes containing any of these foods are kept well out of reach. Alcohol should also be kept away from dogs; ingestion of even small amounts can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure, both of which can be fatal.
In addition to foods, be sure to keep your dog away from other hazards like tinsel and glass ornaments. And pet owners shouldn’t forget about their cats this festive season: turkey bones can cause choking and blockages and some plants like holly and mistletoe are poisonous to both dogs and cats and should be kept out of reach.
Over the festive season, Direct Line recommends that pet owners follow these simple steps:
- Keep any potentially dangerous food or items out of reach of your pets
- Pay particular attention to harmful foods like chocolate, raisins, onions and garlic for dogs and turkey bones for cats
- Only feed pets food which is specifically designed for them
- Seek veterinary advice immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten harmful food
- Keep Christmas decorations and plants out of reach of pets
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!