Essential pet advice with vet Jo Gourlay

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With the festive season well and truly upon us, the Christmas adverts are out with a vengeance – although some have been causing a bit of controversy in the veterinary world .

Last week, in response to the Morrisons Christmas dessert commercial showing a small boy feeding Christmas pudding to his dog, the president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) released a statement reminding the public that some seemingly innocent foods can be dangerous to our pets.

The combination of that, 
and having returned home just in the nick of time to find dented gold chocolate coins with teeth imprints rather than just totally devoured one, I thought this week we’d have 
a timely reminder of festive foods that are potentially harmful to our pets.

Chocolate poisoning is a commonly seen problem, especially in dogs. They are drawn to the sweetness of it and around Christmas it’s often much more accessible – hanging on or wrapped up under the tree, in advent calendars or on just on the coffee table ready for the next festive movie.

Add that to being extra busy dashing to Christmas events and parties and it’s easy to see how our pooches may accidentally get their paws on some, as I found out with the gold coins.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is but as little as one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is potentially lethal in dogs, which very roughly equates to a fairly average terrier eating less than 500g (with considerably less darker chocolate being required).

Returning to the BVA statement about the issue of Christmas pudding being fed to a dog, what’s the problem? Well, it stems from the fact that both raisins and sultanas are potentially dangerous to dogs and consumption of enough can, in some cases, even lead to kidney failure.

Being a key ingredient of not only Christmas pudding but also mince pies and Christmas cake, again these readily available treats must be kept out of dog-nibbling reach.

There is a whole host of other foods and beverages that should be avoided which include onions, garlic, alcohol, avocadoes, certain nuts (especially macadamia) and xylitol (an artificial sweetener found in many products).

In my experience, however, the majority of food-related vets visits over the festive season don’t come down to these but overindulgence. Although it’s a lovely idea to include your pet in the festivities, giving them a special Christmas dinner or extra treats and titbits may actually ruin their day.

Rich, fatty foods can result in bouts of sickness or diarrhoea or, in the more extreme cases, even cause problems with the pancreas.

So it may be worth thinking of a non-consumable gift for your pet this year, or at least spreading out any treats over a few weeks.

If they do end up munching on something they shouldn’t, make sure you contact your own vet for advice straight away. By the time you start seeing any signs of problems, they could already be very unwell.