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Christmas is a dog’s life for pets

8th December 2010 Print

According to vets, Christmas is one of the most dangerous times of the year for pets.  In 2008, the PDSA alone treated 15,600 ill and injured pets over the Christmas period.  With the average vet bill currently standing at almost £300, there could be a sting in the tail for owners too - so it pays to be prepared.

Dog-owner Emma Fothergill discovered all this to her cost last Christmas.  Lottie, Emma's beloved one-year-old cocker spaniel, managed to sneak into an upstairs room and have her doggy way with the family's Christmas presents.

Emma said: "She managed to get upstairs and raided the presents hidden under the bed in the spare room without any of us hearing.  We found her looking very guilty with her head hanging down and chocolate all round her face! After a little bit of hunting, we found a completely empty box of chocolates amongst all the other presents, which were untouched.  Most of the wrappers had been eaten too.  I was cross at first but couldn't help but laugh at the hang dog look on her face.  Little did we know what was to come."

What had started out as a bit of amusement at her mischief soon turned into real concern, as Lottie's Christmas started to unravel.  Emma said: "She seemed fine at first, but on Christmas Day we couldn't even get her out of her bed.  She hardly moved all day.  We even had to carry her outside to go to the toilet."

"On Boxing Day, when she still didn't move much, we called out the vet as we were getting really worried.  What he told us came as a real shock.  He explained that chocolate can be toxic to dogs if eaten in large enough quantities and asked how much she had eaten.  He also said that chocolate poisoning can be quite serious as there is no antidote.  Thankfully, it turned out that Lottie was only suffering from a simple case of over-indulgence, which was a huge relief!

"The vet gave us some medicine to give the chocolate a helping hand getting through Lottie's system and within days she was fine.  That is except for the evidence she left all over the garden over the next few days, chocolate wrappers included!"

Top tips for pet safety at Christmas

1. Arrange pet insurance: If you're adding a pet to the family this Christmas, arrange pet insurance at the same time.  It doesn't need to be expensive and could save a lot of stress and expense. For a step by step action plan for finding and saving money on pet insurance, visit

2. Stick to a routine: Although Christmas is a busy day, sticking to normal feeding and walking times, for instance, as this will help to keep pets calm and out of mischief

3. Don't let pets indulge:  However, tempting, don't let your pets overeat, or give them inappropriate food as treats.

4. Take care with trees and decorations:  Falling trees and ‘decorations as snacks' are amongst the top pet dangers at Christmas

5. Keep presents ad wrapping out of reach:  Cards, wrapping paper and ribbons ca all cause real problems if eaten by pets.  Keep present out of reach too especially chocolate

6. Beware poisonous plants:  Unfortunately, many of the plants that appear at Christmas are toxic to pets - including Holly berries, mistletoe and poinsettias

7. Turkey bones:  Keep your pets out of the kitchen at Christmas.  Turkey bones are as dangerous as chicken bones

8. Christmas lights:  Chewed cables are a recipe for disaster.

9. Keep them calm:  If you're having party, make sure your pets can escape to a quiet part of the house. 

10 Be ready:  Check your vet's Christmas opening hours and keep the surgery telephone number by the phone just in case.

The top 5 reasons dogs visited a vet on Christmas Day last year were:

1. Gastritis / Enteritis
2. Lacerations or bite wounds
3. Soft tissue trauma
4. Foreign body ingestion
5. Chocolate poisoning