VET’S DIARY: The tempting perils for pets at Christmas time

I have suddenly realised that the festive season is rapidly approaching when many of us will be looking forward to eating, drinking and merry-making, writes David Young.

In people, this can not only lead to abdominal discomfort and an unsteady gait, but please remember that pets can get too much of a good thing as well.

Several years ago my previous young Labrador called Eppie caused much frustration as well as hilarity in toppling over the Christmas tree, not once but several times within a few days, to try to reach the chocolate Christmas decorations hanging on it.

We caught her quickly and managed to avoid her eating too many, because eating too much chocolate can have a very serious outcome in dogs.

As well as tree decorations, boxes and bars of chocolate and also chocolate cakes can all have a fatal outcome.

It is important to know the type of chocolate and the quantity eaten to work out the potential level of theobromine poisoning as well as the amount of fat and sugars which can result in an inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Dark cooking chocolate is more serious than ordinary dark chocolate, which in turn is worse than milk chocolate whereas white chocolate is the safest of them all.

However, the safest option is to keep chocolate out of reach altogether.

Christmas cakes and puddings can also be quite tasty to our canine friends.

Unfortunately, their ingredients consisting of currants, sultanas and dates can be dangerous if taken in excess due to the likelihood of precipitating kidney failure as well as the rich food causing stomach bloating and discomfort.

Stealing food off the table or raiding dustbins for leftovers is a great game especially if there is a juicy piece of ham with a nice covering of fat to keep it moist.

Chicken and turkey meat covered with skin is also a target.

All of these more fatty foods can not only stimulate gastroenteritis, but also the high fat levels can inflame the pancreas causing an acute

pancreatitis, which if not treated promptly, can be life-threatening.

Chicken bones and chicken drumsticks are also very tempting but are quite brittle and once chewed can leave a sharp edge; this can perforate, potentially causing a perforation to the bowel, resulting in a peritonitis and a very ill dog.

Another favourite, especially at a drinks party or New Year’s Eve event, is a cocktail stick with a piece of sausage or cheese attached to the end.

The cheese or sausage might not cause too many problems, but the cocktail stick can!

They are extremely sharp and a hungry young dog will not daintily attempt to remove the sausage from the stick, but will devour everything – cocktail sticks included.

Cocktail sticks can easily penetrate the stomach or bowel and migrate within the body cavity causing abscesses and peritonitis, sometimes weeks later, often occasionally with fatal consequences.

If your pet is off colour over the holiday period you may be tempted to reach for paracetamol tablets.

Please don’t, but especially not for cats as they are much more sensitive to this medicine and are unable to metabolise it, resulting in a severe toxicity.

Prevention is always better than cure and hopefully these few gentle reminders will allow you all to enjoy a very happy festive season with your family pets, and yes, you have guessed – if there are any mishaps on Christmas Day, I am on call – again.

Along with the Alnorthumbria team, I wish you all a very peaceful and merry Christmas and a happy and successful New Year.