Dogs 86% more likely to be poisoned at Christmas

Dogs are 86% more likely to suffer poisoning in December. So many of of our festive staples, like chocolate, mince pies and Christmas cake are highly toxic - and can be fatal to dogs.

Whether it’s your puppy’s first Christmas, or if they’re a festive veteran – keeping them safe takes some thought and care. It can be easier and quicker than we think for our dogs to grab something they shouldn't, and the results can be devastating. Our claims data shows that, compared with every other month of the year, dogs are a staggering 86% more likely to become poisoned, and human Christmas food is very often the culprit.

Robin Hargreaves, our Senior Veterinary Advisor, shares his top tips for keeping dogs safe, and some of our policyholders revisit their terrifying dog poison experiences from last Christmas...

If your dog consumes any of the following, it is essential to contact your vet immediately:

 

Chocolate 

There’s always lots of chocolate around at Christmas time, and, often, it’s left in easy reach of pets. But being careless could have very serious consequences.

Chocolate can be very toxic to dogs. It varies how toxic, but the better quality the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Quite simply, if your dog has any chocolate at all, do not take a risk - you’ve got to take it very seriously.

Sid's story


"Sid, our Whippet, was five last Christmas. A bowl of chocolate raisins had been inadvertently left on a sideboard on Boxing Day and Sid climbed up on a chair and managed to get to them. He ate about a half bowl and, although he did this in secret, luckily we noticed quickly that the bowl was empty. After checking online and seeing how dangerous this was, I spoke to the Vet and I was advised to take him straight in as waiting for symptoms would be too late. Sid was made to be sick and then was put on a drip. He had to stay in at the vet for two days before he was allowed home again. Fortunately, he has suffered no lasting effects and it hasn't stopped him thieving food!" says Joanna, Sid's owner.

Mince pies and Christmas cake

These both contain raisins, which come from grapes – and are highly toxic to dogs. Eating food that contains grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure in your dog. If you think your dog has eaten anything containing grapes or raisins, you must contact your vet straight away - do not wait until morning or the next day.

Ella's story (Ella is on the right, next to her brother, Chester)

When owner, Mrs Crispino, left her two Cocker Spaniels, Ella and Chester, at home to go out for the evening, she had no idea that one of them would scale the worktop to help themself to a box of six mince pies she had been given as a gift. "I came home at about midnight and luckily saw the foil cases on the floor. Both dogs seemed absolutely fine, but knowing the dangers of mincemeat, I knew they needed to get urgently to the vet. They were both treated for ingesting the mince pies as we didn't know which dog it was, however, by the following evening, Ella had gone into renal failure. We very nearly lost her as she was so badly affected. Fortunately, as we had reacted quickly and she had been receiving treatment for 24 hours, the vet was able to save her. She is fully recovered, but it is safe to say we will not be having any mince pies in the house this Christmas!"

Lexie's story

"On Christmas Day, Lexie - who was three at the time - and I went to meet friends for a walk in the park.  Unknown to me, they had arranged to meet other people there too and had brought Christmas cake to share. Being aware of the risks to dogs, I warned everyone how toxic Christmas cake was for Lexie and asked the group to make sure that no Christmas cake was anywhere within her reach. Just to be safe, I left them to their picnic and went to walk on my own with her. It turned out that Lexie wasn't quite ready to say goodbye, and ran some distance across the park back to our friends.

"She was quicker than me, and got back to the picnic and grabbed and ate a piece of cake before anyone could react. I rushed her to the vets, where she was made to vomit, given activated charcoal to absorb the toxins, and put on a drip for two days. This was such a frightening experience, and could have ended so differently. Thankfully, Lexie has bounced back after her poisoning and we're both hoping for a much happier Christmas this year, " Dr Alison Marriott, Lexie's owner.

Other seasonal dangers to be aware of:
Alcohol
 

This has a similar effect on animals as it does on humans, but as pets are much smaller than us, a small quantity can have a serious effect. It is a poison and will make animals very sick, very quickly.

Always keep them away – drinks such as cream liqueurs can be especially, so do not take any risks.

Vape/electronic cigarette refills. “These contain very concentrated nicotine, which would be extremely dangerous if your dog were to chew or eat it. This is a relatively unknown, but extremely serious poison, so be very careful, especially if you have visitors that may not be as careful as you are.

If your pet has consumed any of the above, get in touch with your vet immediately for urgent advice.

Unsuitable Christmas toys

Your dog might be lucky to get given presents from friends and family, but always make sure if someone gives your pet a toy, it is suitable.

Before giving it to your dog to play with, check that no parts can be torn off or eaten. If a dog eats part of a toy, it may not pass through the dog’s intestine, causing an obstruction – which would need immediate attention from a vet.

 Over-indulging

Lots of dogs end up with upset stomachs at Christmas after being given leftovers. It’s so easy to feel sorry for them as we eat so much lovely food and theirs seems boring in comparison, but as much as we can think it’s a lovely treat for them, they are just not used to it. Be very mindful of how much they are given (not just by you, but by visitors, too) and stick to their normal diet as much as possible. They will feel much better for it.

And remember, just because it’s Christmas and we might like to be lazy, your dog won’t! In fact, with everything more unpredictable than usual, if anything, get them out and about more than you usually would. Your dog’s need for stimulation and exercise doesn’t stop – and who doesn’t love a Christmas walk anyway!

 Christmas vet services

It’s a very good idea to check your vet’s opening hours over the Christmas period, and the details of your emergency out of hours service. There may be different arrangements over Christmas, and even a different location you’d need to get to in a hurry. So, in case you do find yourself with an emergency on your hands, make sure you know the details for Christmas Day.

Wishing you, your families and pets a very happy and safe Christmas.

If you have an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.