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Statistics show seasonal risks of dogs eating things they shouldnt

A spell of wet weather can provide welcome relief after weeks of baking temperatures and rock-hard ground but with it comes an increased risk of laminitis.

Statistics released on 16 December 2022 by The Kennel Club show that dogs are 53 per cent more likely to be treated for eating human food that is poisonous to them, or ingesting ‘foreign bodies’, in December, compared to any other month of the year. The statistics, collected by the dog welfare organisation’s insurance partner, Agria Pet Insurance, show that December has consistently been the highest month for intoxication claims since 2015, with the highest claim reaching over £1,600 following a dog eating a mince pie.

This comes as further research from The Kennel Club reveals that two in five (40%) dog owners are worried about how they will care for their dog if the cost of living continues to rise and recent figures from Dogs Trust suggest that the biggest financial concern facing dog owners is affording vet bills1.

As such, during the Christmas period where routines may be disrupted, new people might be around the home and certain treats and toys may get into the wrong paws, The Kennel Club, the biggest organisation dedicated to canine health and welfare is urging vigilance, not only to protect the nation’s dogs, but also to help owners who may be struggling financially.

“While Christmas should be a joyful and exciting time for the whole family, it can often be not only stressful and confusing for our pets, but sometimes dangerous as well, especially if certain treats and presents can land in the wrong paws,” said Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club.

“Of course, many families will also be experiencing additional stress this Christmas owing to the cost of living crisis and may not be able to cope with any additional and unexpected financial burden, such as emergency veterinary treatment. While this can be extremely costly, and not to mention incredibly upsetting for both dogs and their owners, it can also often be avoided as long as owners are vigilant and take necessary precautions.”

Lily, a Hungarian Vizsla, was rushed to an out-of-hours vet aged just 10 weeks old after swallowing her owner’s earbuds last Christmas. Lily had got her paws on the device while her owner was Facetiming a friend and had already swallowed it by the time he had realised. With the vet concerned that the battery contained within the earbud could cause Lily serious harm, she was taken into emergency surgery.

“Lily is our first dog and the loveliest girl we could have hoped for so thank goodness she’s totally recovered and we had insurance in place – the vet’s bill was well over £1,000,” said Lily’s owner. “This incident happened in a split second, so I would advise anyone with a dog, especially an inquisitive young puppy, to assume they will try and eat anything they can get hold of, so keep everything out of reach!”

Robin Hargreaves, Senior Veterinary Advisor for Agria Pet Insurance said: “Batteries can be incredibly dangerous to your dog and when swallowed can cause a blockage, and even chemical burns or heavy metal poisoning in some extreme cases. Owners who think their pets have ingested batteries, or small toys and objects of any kind, should contact their vet for advice immediately.

“Of course, the treatment required can be not only complicated but also costly, and it is always far better to be extremely vigilant and prevent access to both these products as well as other Christmas hazards.”

To help dog owners navigate Christmas safely, The Kennel Club has shared some top tips:

Festive food

Every Christmas there are thousands of cases of dogs needing veterinary treatment after consuming chocolate and other unsuitable festive foods like mince pies, stollen, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. Try and keep any food out of reach from your dog – this includes advent calendars, chocolate coins and edible tree decorations.

Remember:

  • Chocolate is poisonous to dogs so it’s vital to keep any away from your dog and make sure any visitors do the same – don’t forget decorations or gifts under the tree
  • Christmas dinner involves a large amount of dangerous foods for your dog, either through being toxic, too salty or too fatty. Be wary of feeding them traditional turkey, goose and chicken as bones can easily splinter, particularly when cooked, causing an obstruction and possibly even piercing your dog’s tummy
  • Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding all contain dried fruits such as raisins, currants or sultanas which are toxic to dogs
  • Other festive foods to avoid include: macadamia nuts, blue cheese, alcohol and mouldy foods

If you think your dog may have eaten something that they shouldn’t or they have symptoms including sickness and diarrhoea, speak to your vet straight away.

Dangerous decorations 

Christmas decorations and presents are often just as intriguing and exciting for dogs as they are for humans. Trees covered in tinsel, ornaments and lights can pose a choking and/or puncture hazard as well as the risk of electrocution.

Be careful too with certain festive plants, which can cause varying degrees of stomach upset if eaten by a curious dog:

  • Poinsettia
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Ivy

With so many Christmas presents that aren’t suitable for dogs under the tree, watch out for your dog trying to eat:

  • Small toys or gifts with small parts
  • Wrapping paper or crepe paper
  • Plastic materials or decorations used for wrapping presents
  • Electronic gifts and toys – these often contain batteries, which if chewed or swallowed can be dangerous

Winter worries 

Alongside the festive season, the winter weather brings a number of seasonal dangers for our dogs. As well as being more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite when out on winter walks, if you take your dog out near a frozen lake then ensure they are kept close to you. 

Care should also be taken when using antifreeze products that contain chemicals that can be lethal when licked or drunk by dogs. Products should be stored in secure containers away from pets. Watch out too for dogs drinking out of puddles when it’s very cold, as the water can sometimes be tainted with antifreeze chemicals.  

If you think your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that they shouldn’t, speak to your vet straight away

Seasonal stress 

Christmas can be overwhelming for our pets so avoid forcing festive fun by making sure their routine isn’t disrupted – take them out on their usual walks and keep dinner time the same – and make sure they still have their usual space and bed so they can retreat and settle in their usual spot if and when they want to. Everyone is busy at Christmas with many spending more time away from home, but don’t forget about your four-legged friend or leave them alone for more than four hours.

There is further advice on how to have a calm canine Christmas and avoid seasonal dangers, as well as recipes for safe, seasonal snacks on The Kennel Club website

You can also find guidance around looking after pets during the cost of living crisis and help available.

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