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December 16th 2013

Pet owners are being urged to watch out for potential hazards around their home to avoid an emergency visit to the surgery this Christmas. Traditional treats, such as chocolate and tinsel, are very festive but vets on call over Christmas dread seeing the damage they can cause. 

Vet Robin Hargreaves, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: 

“Christmas is an exciting but frantic time for most of us. Our homes may be packed with new and tempting things, which are hard for curious pets to resist. 

“As a vet we see the hazards posed by seemingly harmless holiday treats. Last year my practice treated three dogs with chocolate poisoning in just 12 hours in the week before Christmas. Luckily, they all responded to treatment but they were fortunate their owners sought help early. Cocoa is very toxic to dogs so darker, luxury brands can be even more dangerous than milk chocolate treats. 

“There’s also a temptation to indulge you pet with richer food than usual but this isn’t good for their stomach or their waistline. Consider getting them a new toy or taking them for a long walk after dinner instead. These are healthy gifts they’ll really enjoy.  

“I’d encourage anyone who owns cats and dogs to take these tips to heart and avoid adding an emergency visit to the vet to your to do list this Christmas.” 

And Sir Roger Gale, North Thanet`s MP and an Honorary Member of the BVA adds: 

“Robin Hargreaves is so right.  As well as our Newfies  we have a rescue Labrador that we are fostering. A couple of weeks ago we left what we thought were secure, out of reach and gift-wrapped boxes of chocolates in our dining room.  The old lab sniffed them through the wrapping and chewed through five boxes before he was spotted. That meant an expensive out-of-hours late-night visit to the surgery. Fortunately, he is perfectly okay but it just shows that even in pet-aware households things can go wrong”! 

In order to keep the Christmas season merry for the whole household the BVA is urging animal-lovers to ensure their home is safe for four-legged friends by following these seven simple tips. 

  1. Protect your pet from poisons – A number of festive treats, such as chocolate, grapes, sweets and liquorice, are toxic to cats and dogs. A traditional Christmas meal may contain turkey bones, onions and garlic in gravy or stuffing and raisins in Christmas pudding, all of which can be fatal if eaten by your pet. 

  2. Keep decorations out of reach – Ribbons, wrapping paper, baubles, tinsel and tree lights can all prove irresistible to cats and dogs but can be very dangerous if broken, chewed or swallowed. Try to keep decorations and blu-tack out of reach of curious pets. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept away from pets. If ingested they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach. 

  3. Forget festive food for pets – we all enjoy a richer diet over Christmas but fatty foods and Christmas dinners shouldn’t be shared with our beloved pets. They can trigger indigestion, sickness and diarrhoea – and, at worst, conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis. So try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine.  

  4. Give toys not treats – We all want our pets to share the fun and many of us include a gift for our pet on the shopping list. But too many treats can lead to fat, unhappy animals so consider opting for a new toy, extra cuddles or a long walk if you want to indulge your pet this Christmas.

  5. Know where to go – Even with all the care in the world, animal accidents and emergencies can still happen. Make sure you’re prepared by checking your vet’s emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours – or, if you are away from home, use the RCVS’s Find a Vet facility at to find a veterinary practice in an emergency. 


For more information on pets and poisons download the AWF leaflet at . For information about caring for animals in cold weather visit the BVA website  


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