Special interest

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Warning: Images from real post-mortems and bad decorating to follow.

As the first couple of doors of the advent calendar are opened, and adverts for everything Christmassy are starting to drive you a little insane, we thought it would be a good time to remind pet owners of some of the risks the holiday season brings to our pets. Vets come across as gigantic Debbie Downers at this time of year, but hopefully with a little advice the necropsy room will be nice and quiet as a result.

The necrospy room is decorated to help lift the mood

The necropsy room is decorated to help lift the mood

Most owners are aware of foods that shouldn’t be shared with pets. A few of the more common culprits are listed here (don’t forget about them after they’ve been mixed into something else!) but there are many other toxic ‘treats’ so it’s best to stick with products specifically made for pets.

Chocolate is everywhere this time of year – keep it out of reach of your pets!

Onions, garlic and chives mangle red blood cells in cats and dogs, leading to severe anaemia.  Don’t forget gravy and stuffing often contain lots of onion!

These red blood cells have been damaged by oxidative damage (e.g. onion toxicity)

These red blood cells have been damaged by oxidative damage (e.g. onion toxicity)

Animals are much more sensitive to alcohol. It can depress breathing and lead to aspiration pneumonia (choking on vomit).

The avocado fruit and plant is toxic to many species, and severely toxic to rodents and birds. Cherries are also poisonous to cats and dogs.

That's right Grumpy; stick to cat food

That’s right Grumpy; stick to cat food

Grapes and raisins, often hidden in fruit cakes, mince pies and Christmas puddings, can lead to kidney failure in dogs.  Macadamia nuts and blue cheese are also harmful to pets.

Bones are bad news all round! They can choke, cause obstructions (in the airways and guts), and tear the intestines.  Bones are best avoided altogether – our domestic dogs aren’t quite as smart or robust as their ancestors!

A bone lodged in the larynx of an unfortunate young dog

A bone lodged in the larynx of an unfortunate young dog

Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can cause severe hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) in dogs, leading to coma and death.  It is common in commercially available food for diabetics (chocolates and sweets), as well as ‘diet’ versions of soft drinks.

As if Christmas dinner was enough of a minefield for your furry friend, decorations are also a danger! This time of year sees lots of animals visiting the hospital (and sadly, the necropsy room too) after swallowing all sorts of objects including baubles, tinsel, and batteries.

Real Christmas tree needles can be irritant to dogs, causing skin reactions, sores in the mouth, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Holly, mistletoe and poincetta are all toxic to animals – keep them securely fastened out of reach of the curious dog and cat.

And don’t leave candles unattended in case your mischievous cat knocks them over, nor electrical cables accessible to the dog who is bored of his chew toy, or house rabbit who likes to nibble at everything…


Have a safe and happy holiday from Vetforensics!

tinsel skulls