The insurer’s study*, which questioned vets across the UK, reveals more than eight in 10 (86 per cent) have treated dogs for ingesting harmful human food in the last year. Almost three quarters (74 per cent) say this issue is particularly prevalent at Christmas, with significant increases in the number of cases, compared to any other time of the year.
Over half of vets surveyed (57 per cent) reported seeing cases involving chocolate, which is potentially fatal to dogs. In many instances these harmful foods were not deliberately given to pets, but accidentally consumed.
Many vets attribute the rise in harmful consumption over the festive season to greater quantities of potentially toxic foods around the home. With human treats like chocolate, Christmas pudding and mince pies often easily accessible and owners frequently distracted, the festive period can be a potentially dangerous time for dogs.
Most common types of harmful human food ingested by dogs over the Christmas period:
- Grapes, raisins (found in mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake)
- Scraps from roast dinners (onion in stuffing)
Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance, says: “It is concerning to see so many cases of dogs eating harmful human foods as there are serious health implications if consumed in certain quantities.
“If you suspect that your dog has eaten something harmful, like chocolate, raisins, or onions, see a vet immediately. At Christmas, we may think our dogs, like us, deserve a treat, but just make sure that this is specifically designed for dogs, otherwise we may be doing more harm than good.”
Giving chocolate to a dog can cause serious harm as it contains a substance called theobromine. Similar to caffeine, the stimulant is poisonous to dogs and can affect the heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms can occur from four hours after ingesting chocolate and can include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate and seizures.
Along with avoiding chocolate, owners should avoid feeding dogs grapes, raisins, onions or garlic and ensure that mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and stuffing are kept well out of reach.
Pet owners shouldn’t forget about their cats this festive season: turkey bones can cause choking and blockages and some plants like holly and mistletoe are poisonous to cats and should be kept out of reach.
Over the festive season, Direct Line recommends that pet owners follow these simple steps:
- Keep any potentially dangerous food or items out of reach of your pets
- Pay particular attention to harmful foods like chocolate, raisins, onions and garlic for dogs and turkey bones for cats
- Only feed pets food which is specifically designed for them
- Seek veterinary advice immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten harmful food
- Keep Christmas decorations and plants out of reach of pets
- Have a comprehensive pet insurance policy
* Research carried out amongst 100 UK veterinary practitioners between 1st – 2nd December 2014
Source: Direct Line Insurance