Protecting Your Furry Friends: Christmas Dangers for Dogs and Cats by Dr Elaine Cebuliak

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, but it can also pose hidden dangers for our beloved furry companions. As we deck the halls and indulge in festive treats, it’s crucial to be aware of potential hazards that can threaten the health and well-being of our pets. In this article, we’ll explore some common Christmas dangers for dogs and cats, including the toxicity of xylitol, chocolate, sultanas, and onions.

Xylitol in Sweets:

Many people enjoy indulging in sweets and candies during the holiday season, but pet owners must be vigilant about keeping these treats out of reach. Xylitol, a sugar substitute commonly found in sugar-free gum, candies, and baked goods, can be extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can lead to a rapid release of insulin, causing hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), seizures, and, in severe cases, liver failure.

To protect your pets, read ingredient labels carefully and keep all xylitol-containing products well out of their reach. Please note that Xylitol can also be called:

  • Xylite
  • Birch Sugar
  • E967
  • Meso-Xylitol
  • Sucre de bouleau

 If you suspect your pet has ingested something containing xylitol, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Chocolate Toxicity:

While many of us savour the rich taste of chocolate during the holidays, it poses a significant threat to our four-legged friends. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant that dogs and cats metabolize more slowly than humans. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate have higher theobromine levels, making them more dangerous.

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and, in severe cases, seizures and death. The toxic dose varies based on the type of chocolate and the size of the pet, but any ingestion of chocolate should be treated as an emergency. If you suspect your pet has consumed chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Sultanas and Raisins in Fruit Cake:

Fruit cakes are a staple during the holiday season, but pet owners need to be cautious about the ingredients used. Sultanas and raisins, common in many fruit cake recipes, can be toxic to dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats. Ingesting even a small amount can lead to kidney failure.

Symptoms of sultana or raisin toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and decreased appetite. If you suspect your pet has consumed fruit cake containing these ingredients, seek prompt veterinary attention. It’s advisable to keep all baked goods containing grapes, raisins, or sultanas well out of your pet’s reach.

Onion Poisoning from Turkey Stuffing:

As families gather around the table for a festive feast, it’s important to be mindful of the ingredients used in holiday dishes. Onions, a common ingredient in turkey stuffing, can be highly toxic to both dogs and cats. All forms of onions, including raw, cooked, and powdered, can cause oxidative damage to red blood cells, leading to anaemia.

Symptoms of onion poisoning include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, and pale gums. In severe cases, it can lead to collapse and death. If you suspect your pet has ingested onions, seek immediate veterinary attention. Avoid sharing any table scraps containing onions with your furry friends, and store leftovers securely to prevent accidental ingestion.

Other Things You Should Know:

*COOKED Bones! These can cause intestinal blockages, are sharp and undigestible. They should NEVER be given to dogs. Please dispose of them properly so the dog cannot retrieve them from your bin. 

*Too much food can create problems!

*Cooked fat is inflammatory – think about those leftovers: bacon, ham, turkey skin and gravy if given to the dog can set off a very painful pancreatitis.  This can be seen as vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy and can even be life threatening. The dog will need to be hospitalised and placed on intravenous fluid therapy.  Please freeze your leftovers and do not be tempted to give it all to the dogs.

While the holiday season is a time for celebration, it’s crucial for pet owners to remain vigilant and take steps to protect their dogs and cats from potential hazards. By being aware of the dangers posed by xylitol, chocolate, sultanas, and onions, you can ensure a safe and joyful holiday season for both your family and your furry companions. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for guidance and assistance. With a little awareness and precaution, you can keep your pets happy and healthy throughout the festivities.

To book a time with Dr Elaine and her team please phone:

PH: (07) 3393 1359 / 0457 491 110 

Dr Elaine Cebuliak

Dr Elaine is a highly experienced holistic vet and pioneer of Animal Wellness in Brisbane. She also assists with many charitable projects in Australia and in Bali.

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