Menna Field, a registered veterinary nurse at St Anne’s Veterinary Group in Eastbourne, said Christmas can present a number of potential issues for pets as homes are decorated for the season and a range of food and drink is often left lying around.
Items which present risks to pets at Christmas include ribbons on presents, tinsel, sharp tree needles, low-lying fairy lights, chestnuts and chocolate, which is often one of the most common causes for a trip to the vets.
Drink, too, can be dangerous and a traditional Christmas favourite, Baileys Irish Cream, can prove particularly dispiriting for animals.
Menna said: “Christmas and the associated festivities can present a bit of a minefield for pet owners.
“For example, dogs will drink most forms of alcohol left in glasses, so people need to be wary of leaving drinks where their animals can easily access them.
“The signs of ethanol intoxication are similar to those in humans – vomiting, depression, a lack of co-ordination, disorientation and drowsiness. Dogs with these conditions need warmth, rehydration and immediate nursing care.”
Festive items to avoid that are hazardous to pets
Other festive items which could cause harm to animals include plants such as mistletoe, poinsettia, holly and ivy which can all cause upset stomachs, while lilies can be very harmful to cats.
Food items which should be on the radars of pet owners include grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas, including mince pies and Christmas pudding, which can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats, along with macadamia nuts, onions and mouldy foods such as walnuts, bread and cheese, which can all be harmful.
Meanwhile, beware of leftovers, as Menna added the team at St Anne’s have seen cases of turkey bones causing potentially serious obstructions.
Menna, who has recently celebrated 20 years at St Anne’s having joined the practice in 2003 as a 17-year-old student nurse, said: “As well as steering clear of foods which are not prepared specifically with your pets in mind, we would also urge caution about feeding them from your plate on Christmas Day.”
Meanwhile, Menna said the general busyness of the festive season can also cause some anxiety for pets, whose usual routines are thrown by large crowds, noise and celebrations.
She added: “Christmas can often be a busy and quite chaotic time. You can help your pet cope with the chaos by keeping to their normal routine and if you are spending Christmas Day with family and your dog is going with you, take something which smells familiar to help them feel secure.
“At home, it can be a good idea to create a safe and quiet space for pets to go where they can avoid visitors if they want, to try to reduce their stress levels.
“We’d also recommend using a calming diffuser, as with fireworks celebrations.
“In terms of household hazards, while tinsel and wrapping paper might be tempting for your pet to play with, just make sure they don’t eat it!
“We want everyone to have a happy Christmas, so we recommend keeping an eye on what your pet is up to during the festivities to keep them safe and well.”