The hidden dangers of Christmas: Hong Kong vets warn of increased risks to pets
With Christmas fast approaching, veterinarians in Hong Kong are bracing themselves for an increase in pet medical emergencies. Dr Benjamin Trout from the Animal Emergency Centre (AEC) explains: "During the Christmas period pet owners introduce a host of Christmas related items into the home including decorations, plants and foods that can potentially cause great harm to their pets. Every Christmas we see multiple instances of pets with medical conditions ranging from bloat, pancreatitis and toxicity as owners are unaware of the potential dangers of these items."
Hidden dangers of Christmas plants
One of the most common Christmas related problems seen in the AEC is poisoning due to ingestion of poisonous plants. Many of the plants we associate with the holiday period are quite toxic to pets.
One of the most dangerous is the lily, which is extremely toxic to cats, but surprisingly enough, not toxic to dogs at all. Owners who suspect their cats have ingested lilies should seek medical attention immediately as life threatening kidney failure may result if not treated quickly.
The ever popular Poinsettia is seen all over Hong Kong and ingestion will commonly cause mild gastritis, including vomiting and diarrhoea. Other Christmas plants such as holly, mistletoe and Christmas trees can also all cause unpleasant vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten. Vets advise that if your pets are prone to chewing things around the house that these items be placed well out of reach of mouths and paws.
Wrapping ribbon can be a particular hazard for cats, who often enjoy playing with (and eating) discarded pieces of string they find around the house. These can get stuck in the stomach and intestines and in many cases need to be surgically removed.
Pet owners are usually well educated when it comes to knowing what their pets can and can't eat, however unfortunately pets don't usually understand these rules. It's not uncommon for over eager dogs to jump onto a bench or table and devour any unsupervised treats. Chocolate is a particular danger to pets, and overdose can result in tremors, seizures and in severe cases, death. In general, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. If an owner suspects their pet has ingested chocolate, they should contact their vet immediately.
Other toxic foods include alcohol, coffee, tea, onions and garlic.
Although these dangers are out there, pet owners are reminded that it is Christmas and every member of the family (including the dogs and cats) can be included in the holiday celebrations in a safe and fun way. Turkey is low fat and fine for pets in small quantities. And it's a great excuse to buy your pet some new toys that will provide welcome distraction from all the new plants and decorations around the house.
During the holiday period many vet clinics are closed or have reduced working hours so pet owners are advised to keep the website and phone number of a 24 hour emergency clinic in an easily accessible location for any surprises during the holiday period.