A number of years ago I read an article in which a dog owner recounted what was on the surface an amusing story.
It was Christmas and the owners had gone out to do some shopping. The dogs had been left with free rein of the house including the room where the Christmas tree was. Presents had been wrapped and placed under the tree including gifts with chocolate in them. Chocolate baubles had also been hung from the tree.
The owners came home to find presents unwrapped and the tree leaning sideways missing a number of decorations. The culprits – the dogs of course, the reason – the chocolates!
Dogs love chocolate. Who doesn’t? After all we are all tempted with it every time we walk through a grocery store or into a petrol station. But just because we like it doesn’t mean it is good for us. Chocolate has different effects on different people. Some of us feel quite sick after eating large amounts, others get headaches and some can just keep going. But chocolate is unlikely to kill a human.
For dogs however it is a different story – chocolate contains a product called theobromine which is present in cocoa and is toxic to dogs. Dogs ingest it more slowly than humans so there is often a toxic build up of theobromine. Of course the amount of chocolate a dog consumes is relative here to the dogs size. A small dog consuming a box of chocolate needs veterinary treatment right away. A large or giant breed dog may suffer from diarrhoea or vomiting after 1 box but several boxes could be fatal. In addition it’s important to note that dark chocolate has much higher levels of theobromine than white or milk chocolate but the dog should still be monitored carefully after consumption.
Symptoms of theobromine poisoning can range from vomiting and diarrhoea to muscle tremors and seizures resulting in a heart attack. Dogs need to receive veterinary treatment within 2 hours.
Of course the simple answer is to avoid it happening in the first place. Don’t put presents under the tree, don’t hang chocolate on the tree and don’t give dogs free access to the tree or the presents.
But what about the other dangers at Christmas? I love a pretty sparkling tree with lots of lights. I’ve seen many images of dogs tangled in lights resulting in damage to the tree and an unnecessary vet bill. Make sure all the cabling is safely tucked away. Puppies and young dogs are particularly susceptible to this one.
Christmas crackers light and easy to lift are easy fodder for a curious dog but they can contain harmful objects such as small pieces of plastic that can cause choking and intestinal problems.
Then there is the food we eat. All our lovely Christmas food, turkey, nuts, Christmas pudding, fruit and much more. It’s no wonder dogs are left salivating at the table. But again there are hidden dangers here:
Christmas Pudding contains raisins which are highly toxic to dogs. Small amounts can cause kidney damage leading to kidney failure. Grapes can have the same effect.
The turkey carcass is also high risk. Cooked bones are dangerous to dogs as they break easily into small pieces and those pieces can cause punctures anywhere in the dogs’ system. Never give dogs cooked bones and keep the carcasses well out of reach. Give some thought to how you bin it. We put ours in a plastic bag and in the outside bin. Your dog is likely to invade the bin in the kitchen as the smell will be too tempting. I once worked with a beagle who spent half his life trying to get into the kitchen bin!
Hot food on counters especially meat are so tempting to the dog. Our dog once almost pulled a hot chicken with all the oil in the tray off the workbench. It could have been a very serious incident so make sure all food is out of reach.
Candles on coffee tables or low down are high risk. Not only can they get knocked over but they can also catch on waggy tails! I know a number of dogs who have singed their tails in this way.
Now you may be reading this and thinking that it takes all the fun out of Christmas. It doesn’t have to, just a few sensible precautions will make all the difference, keep your pet safe and prevent you having an unwanted large vet bill.
Be safe and enjoy your Christmas.
Copyright ©Sam Redmond. All rights reserved