Cautionary ‘tails’ from the vets….

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging pet owners to watch out for potential hazards to their pets this Christmas as findings released today reveal that a nativity display, antifreeze and £200 in £20 notes were just some of the items that landed animals in veterinary practices over the 2014 festive period.

Findings from BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey show that chocolate poisoning in dogs was the most common toxic ingestion case, however a quarter of vets also treated cats for dangerous antifreeze poisoning and one in ten vets saw dogs that had eaten Christmas decorations.

BVA President Sean Wensley, BVA President, said:

“Christmas is typically a fun and chaotic time, with lots of presents and treats suddenly arriving in our homes. Many pet owners are aware of the risks of chocolate poisoning to their pets but it’s easy to accidentally leave something tempting lying around. Our results are a cautionary tale about the range of potential hazards around your home at this time of year and owners should be very aware that tasty treats, interesting decorations and new plants can be hard for curious animals to resist. If you suspect your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t then don’t delay consulting your local vet.”

Last Christmas almost one in five vets saw dogs that had eaten a non-edible gift given to them by their owner. BVA’s survey shows the most commonly reported cases of toxic and foreign body ingestion for dogs last year were:

  • chocolate poisoning (seen by 69% of vets)
  • raisins/sultanas (45%)
  • Christmas decorations (10%)

Vets also treated large numbers of cats who had ingested toxic and foreign bodies last Christmas. The most common were:

  • antifreeze (seen by 24% of vets)
  • seasonal plants, such as poinsettia (12%)
  • Christmas decorations (6%)

One vet reported that an unfortunate dog ingested both chocolate and several foreign bodies:

“One dog ate £200 in £20 notes as well as most of the animals and baby Jesus out of the nativity stable. He then ate a large chocolate Santa. The dog was presented to us shortly after eating the chocolate and vomited most of the money, all nativity players and the chocolate up!” Fortunately the dog in this case was fine after veterinary treatment, but toxic ingestion can be serious and veterinary care should be sought immediately.

To keep Christmas merry for the whole household, BVA is urging animal-lovers to ensure their home is safe for four-legged friends by following these five simple tips:

1. Protect your pet from poisons – a number of festive treats and traditions, such as chocolate, raisins, xylitol (found in sugar free treats), nuts, grapes, liquorice, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are toxic to cats and dogs.

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. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept safe as, 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. They can trigger indigestion, sickness and diarrhoea or even conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, so try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine. Turkey bones should not be given to pets as they can splinter and puncture the digestive tract.

4.    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  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 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Find a Vet facility at

For more information on pets and poisons download the Animal Welfare Foundation leaflet at

Substances which can be poisonous to pets include:

  • Chocolate and liquorice (common Christmas gifts)
  • Raisins and sultanas (used in Christmas cake recipes)
  • Certain nuts (especially peanuts and Macadamia nuts)
  • Xylitol-sweetened foods
  • Onions, avocados and grapes
  • Alcohol
  • Plants including lilies (and daffodils)
  • Cleaning and DIY products such as white spirit and lubricating oils
  • Car anti-freeze
  • Human medicines

3.    Substances with low toxicity that could cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea include:

  • Blu-tack or other similar adhesives (used to put up decorations)
  • Charcoal and coal
  • Cut-flower and houseplant food
  • Expanded polystyrene foam (used for large present packing)
  • Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia (common Christmas plants/decorations)
  • Matches
  • Wax candles and crayons
  • Silica gel (found in packaging)




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