Welcome to Priory Veterinary Surgeons’ first online blog! We hope that this page will be useful to you as we ring you the latest news, events and tips on keeping your pets healthy and happy. With Christmas just around the corner, there’s a lot to talk about! I thought I’d start by reminding you of our upcoming Christmas Fayre on Tuesday 14th December. We did something similar last year and it was wonderful to see so many of you attend. We’ve combined this year’s event with our annual Fayre, so as well as mulled wine and mince pies, there will also be some stalls from local businesses and, of course our Pet and Horse of the Year Awards! You can see all the nominees on our Facebook page. Also, tickets to the raffle are still available from all four of our branches, with all proceeds to Hounds for Heroes, a super charity which provides service dogs to ex-military. We hope to see you there – 7PM, at Betchworth Village Hall, RH3 7DF. Now, to impart some seasonal wisdom. To keep to a festive theme, I’ve put together ‘Twelve Hazards of Christmas:
- Gravy. It’s nice to include your pets in the Christmas dinner. Feeding them, that is, not including them as an ingredient. Seriously though, if you give your dog or cat gravy though, make sure it’s onion free! Any member of the ‘Allium’ family (onions, garlic, chives and leeks), cooked or raw, can have a detrimental effect on dogs or cats – they damage the haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component in the red blood cells. Your pet may have a gastro-intestinal upset, but even if they remain asymptomatic, contact us immediately.
- Chocolate. It’s common knowledge that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats, the harmful components being caffeine and theobromine. It’s worth mentioning though, because chocolate materialises (wonderfully!) in all sorts of places around Christmastime – such as chocolate tree decorations, or wrapped up as a gift. Dogs have a superior sense of smell, so if you suspect that you’ve been given an edible gift, keep it out of their reach.
- Decorations. Have you ever put the finishing touches to a magnificent Christmas tree, left the room for a well-earned cup of tea, and then discovered, via a resounding crash, that the cat has been lying in wait to destroy your hard work by launching itself at the upper branches, having taken umbrage at this glittering visitor? Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of this little scenario, make sure your tree is sturdily placed, and temptations for puppies and kittens, such as dangling tinsel, is well out of their way. Baubles, glass or plastic, can cause nasty cuts if smashed and stepped in too. It’s worth, if your tree is too large to be put on a table, leaving the bottom few branches bare to avoid decoration-related mishaps.
- Gift wrapping. Ribbon, bows and paper can be gone in an instant, and if not a choking hazard, can caused an intestinal blockage, so make sure it’s all tided away when you’ve finished your wrapping!
- Poinsettia. The milky sap inside these plants is mildly toxic to dogs and to cats. It contains ‘diterpenoid euphorbol esters.’ Do also ensure that dogs and cats aren’t exposed to seasonal plants such as mistletoe and holly. Both contain toxic substances, and of course, the spiny leaves on holly plants can be problematic. It’s also worth mentioning, as the number one flower used by florists, that lilies are highly poisonous to cats too, and ingestion can result in kidney failure. Even the pollen is thought to be toxic too, so if you receive a bouquet of flowers for Christmas, make sure you remove the lilies.
- Candles. Seasonal ambience is quickly destroyed when a cat or dog knocks your Cinnamon Stick Yankee jar to the floor, so don’t leave candles unattended!
- Raisins. Like chocolate, but marginally less wonderfully, raisins crop up all over the place at Christmas, in pantone, Christmas cake, mince pies etc. They are seriously toxic to dogs, and can cause fatal kidney failure, so they are rightfully placed on our ‘12 Hazards of Christmas!’
- Giving pets as presents. Another important seasonal subject to touch upon is giving a pet as a Christmas gift. As the Dog’s Trust founder, Clarissa Baldwin stated, ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas,’ a slogan which has become phenomenally well known; in fact, it was estimated that at the time that this was coined, in 1978, a staggering 20% of dogs were given to their owners as gifts, now that figure is estimated at 2%. We do still see Christmas present pets every year though, and sadly, the RSPCA still reports a high statistic of animals abandoned after Christmas, often young puppies, kittens and rabbits, once the novelty has worn off for their new owners. Introducing a new puppy or kitten to a household at Christmas can be really stressful for them if you have lots of family coming over, and excitable children – ‘Christmas’ and ‘calm’ are not really synonymous! I would strongly advise against buying a puppy as a surprise gift. A breed should be selected based on suitability; exercise requirements, trainability, size and affordability. Unfortunately, there seems to be quite a pattern of ‘fashionable’ breeds at the moment – you need to thoroughly know what you’re taking on, as a dog is, upon average, a twelve-year investment! If you’re looking for a new dog or cat, do always take the time to look into rescuing too. Rescue kennel staff are well equipped to advise and match you with a dog or cat who is perfect for your lifestyle.
- Christmas can be a busy time for many households and this can create a stressful environment for everyone, but let’s keep the focus on pets. Make sure dogs and cats have a quiet area or room they can escape to if it gets very noisy – if your dog is crate trained, perhaps keep their crate in a calmer area. Be aware of young family being around your dog if he or she isn’t used to children. Guide petting carefully, and don’t let your dog be overwhelmed with attention. Importantly, don’t let children approach the dog when he or she is asleep; when they’re woken suddenly and startled, even the mildest-tempered dog can snap. Cats generally prefer to escape to a place of height if they’re frightened, so their safe place may be on a secure shelf or on top of an accessible
- unit such as a small bookcase. Place bedding there for them to hide under. If your pet becomes very stressed, herbal based, and synthetic pheromone products are available at all branches. We’ve had some great feedback from these products, so give us a call if you think these could be useful. They’re not suitable for human use or consumption though, FYI. And yes, I’ve been asked that seriously before. 10. Accessible food. You may have guests or family around that don’t have pets, so keep an eye out of food being left on low coffee tables, or reachable areas for dogs and cats. If your pet has dietary requirements, brief family members before they can be overly generous with treats. Keep guests’ bags out of reach too – curious dogs may find and ingest harmful items such as painkillers.
- Cooked bones. Raw bones are fine for dogs, but once cooked, they become very brittle and can shatter, causing cuts in the mouth, or even more seriously, internal damage. This can lead to peritonitis, which can be fatal.
- Fairy lights. Take care with Christmas lights – exposed wires are potential chews for puppies! Cover or tidy away exposed wiring to remove temptation.
So to recap (altogether now), ‘On the twelfth day of Christmas, my owner allowed me: Twelve chewy wires, eleven turkey meat bones, ten treats a-sneaking, nine children shouting, eight pups a-purchased, seven raisins pilfered, six candles tipping, five holly plants! Four yummy bows, three baubles, two chocolate gifts, and a poison onion gravyyy!
Although my satire of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ is doubtlessly hilarious, these hazards are all real and serious. If you’re concerned that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, call us immediately. If it’s a food, or a medication, keep the packaging, and bring it with you when you come in. If you suspect that your dog has eaten something toxic, but aren’t sure, symptoms can include: severe vomiting and/or diarrhoea, possibly containing blood, loss of appetite, seizuring, lethargy or pale gums. We are, as always, here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year) so if you’re worried, don’t hesitate to call us.
Hopefully this initial blog hasn’t put you off reading subsequent publications from us. If you have any ideas for future posts, drop us a message on Facebook.
Have a very happy and pet safe Christmas!
PS! For keeping your pets calm and safe during fireworks, we’ve published a short information sheet, available in branch or right here on our website.