Vets have been urged to advise pet owners to ensure their festive homes are safe for animals over Christmas – and warn them about a number of unknown hazards and poisons.

Vets have been urged to advise pet owners to ensure their festive homes are safe for animals over Christmas – and warn them about a number of unknown hazards and poisons.

Several substances toxic to pets can be found in the home during the Christmas period, with chocolate heading the list of most common causes of poisoning for dogs. It is also toxic to other species, for example, cats, rodents and rabbits.

Other items that pose dangers include sweets and liquorice, which are often given as Christmas gifts; raisins and sultanas used to make Christmas cakes, mince pies and Christmas puddings; grapes; onions and garlic; Blu-tack used to put up cards and decorations; and antifreeze, which is often used in the winter months.

Festive homes also contain additional hazards for pets, such as electrical cables powering Christmas tree lights, which could be very dangerous if chewed; wrapping and bows from presents; decorations such as tinsel, which might be ingested, or broken glass baubles, which could cause injury.

Vet Harvey Locke, president of the BVA, said: “Christmas is a time for families and we’re reminding pet owners it’s also time to remember the health and welfare of their animals too.

“Our message to pet owners is don’t ruin your Christmas through carelessness. The loss or illness of a family pet is devastating, but poisoning in the home can be easily avoided.

“Some substances may make your animal drool or vomit, so they should always have access to clean drinking water. If there is any doubt or concern owners should contact their vet for advice immediately.”

Mr Locke added: “Owners should check with their veterinary surgeon about emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours – or, if they are away from home, use www.findavet.org.uk/ to find a veterinary practice in an emergency.”

The BVA’s charity the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) has produced a Pets and Poisons leaflet that draws attention to common household and garden substances that may seem innocent but that can be dangerous to pets.

Vet Carl Padgett, chairman of trustees for the BVA AWF, said: “Pet owners should educate themselves about all the hazardous poisons in their homes and gardens and take simple steps to ensure they are kept at a safe distance from cats, dogs and other animals.

“The BVA AWF guide to Pets and Poisons is clear and simple to use and could help reduce the dangers in the home not only at Christmas but all year round.”

Vets and members of the public can request hard copies of the leaflet by emailing bva-awf@bva.co.uk

The BVA also warned that noise and excitement at Christmas could cause animals to get nervous and stressed, so owners should be advised to provide a safe haven so pets can retreat for peace and quiet.

The leaflet is available to download at www.bva-awf.org.uk/resources/leaflets/pets_poisons_leaflet_2008_FINAL1.pdf

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