North pet owners warned over festive food perils
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AS pet ownership in the UK has soared this year due to lockdown, vets are now advising those new first-time pet owners on how to best ‘pet proof’ their Christmas this year.
A recent study from PFMA found that two million people bought a new pet in lockdown, while last month the UK CVO predicted a 400 per cent increase in the number of searches for ‘buy a puppy’ in the run up to Christmas, meaning many people may soon be experiencing their first ever Christmas with a new pet.
To help, national veterinary group, Vets4Pets, has pulled together the ultimate Christmas pet online hub, with advice on everything from food to family socialising, to give owners peace of mind and help keep their pet companions safe and happy this festive season.
Dr Samantha Butler-Davies, vet and veterinary clinical services manager at Vets4Pets, said: “One of the top issues we see in our vet practices over the holiday season is accidental poisonings, with pets falling seriously ill after eating festive nibbles.
“Although it can be very tempting to treat our pets to their very own helping of Christmas dinner, we would advise against this as a lot of the traditional festive foods are unfortunately harmful to our pets.
“Raisins from mince pies and Christmas puddings are toxic to pets and if ingested can affect their kidneys, while chocolate contains the ingredients theobromine and caffeine, which pets cannot tolerate and can be fatal. Leftover turkey bones can also be a choking hazard, stuffing often contains onions which are harmful to pets and pigs in blankets can even cause pancreatitis.
“To be safe, vet approved treats are a much better way to give your pet some indulgence of their own over Christmas, such as pet ‘chocolate’, which contains carob instead of theobromine and is available to buy in most pets stores. Of course, we always advise to feed any treats in moderation."
Other dangers await away from the Christmas dinner table. Real Chritmas trees can be mildly toxic, as can holly, mistletoe and poinsettia.
Cats are especially attracted to trees as a climbing challenge and wrapping tinfoil round the base can discourage them from scaling a household's festive centrepiece.
Socialisation can also present a problem.
“A new issue that many pets will have to get accustomed to this year, is potentially sharing their home with multiple new guests for the first time," Dr Butler-Davies continued.
“Socialisation is a crucial stage in development for puppies and kittens.
"Normally, by the time you collect your new pet, reputable breeders will have begun socialisation by handling them, letting them see all sorts of people of different ages and appearances, including children, and introducing them to other animal species.
“However, continued socialisation this year has been difficult with the national and local lockdowns, with many pets only having limited interaction with new people and experiences. Therefore, if people are going to enjoy a socially distanced Christmas gathering this year, it is crucial that they ensure their pet is calm and relaxed. The easiest way to achieve this is to create a cosy den with their favourite toys in a quiet area of the house that they can escape to.
“This has been a tough year for us all, and I am sure we are all looking forward to the Christmas break more than ever before. That’s why we want to ensure owners take these simple precautions, so they can enjoy a merry, stress-free Christmas with their pets.”
For more information on how to keep your pet safe this Christmas and winter, including which festive foods are toxic, how to keep outdoor pets safe and warm in the colder weather and more expert advice, please visit the Vets4Pets Christmas hub at https://bit.ly/2KlNYSs.