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Important food safety tips for pet owners at Christmas

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The SPCA and Nestlé Purina are reminding pet owners to be extra vigilant about what their pets eat over the Festive season.

It may be unknown that common treats and snacks we humans enjoy as part of our holiday celebration including avocado, macadamia nuts, ham, grapes and raisins can cause internal damage and in serious cases lead to death.

Dr Shalsee Vigeant, SPCA Veterinary Manager is urging pet owners to not share human food and to think twice about leaving food in places that might be easily accessible to pets.

“It’s important to know that ignoring your pet’s pleading faces and smooches is actually in their best interest. Dogs and cats digest and metabolise food differently to humans so what might be perfectly fine for us can be poisonous to them.”

“We have a very simple rule in our house.  Only food specially formulated with the right blend of nutrients is given to our pets and we remind visitors of this when they arrive,” says Dr Vigeant.

Even pet owners who are careful about what they feed their pet need to be aware about the places their pet might find a feast. Handbags, gifts under the tree, food left on tables and in rubbish bags are common places where pets will often steal foods that can make them sick. 

Jessie Gilchrist, who works at SPCA Auckland will be keeping her dog Cody well away from any human food this year.  Last Christmas Cody was hospitalised for 48 hours and on an IV after stealing and indulging in her family's fruit cake. 

“Most people know that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, but there are actually an array of popular festive ingredients that your pet’s bodies are simply not designed to eat. Pets can get into food they're not supposed to eat very quickly, so we have to be extra vigilant at this time of year," says Jessie.

Although Christmas is the season of giving, there are plenty of other ways to spoil your pets.

 “At the SPCA we take Purina One pet food and freeze it or put it into toys so they can gradually extract the food. A walk or games in the garden after a big meal is also a great way to make sure your pet gets the attention they need and to fight your own after-meal lethargy,” says Dr Vigeant.

Please remember: if you think your pet has eaten something dangerous you should immediately call your local vet clinic. 

Ten Foods Unsafe for Pets

  1. Fruit cake or Christmas pudding as the raisins (and grapes) are deadly to cats and dogs. They are toxic to their kidneys and can cause lethargy, excessive thirst, vomiting and in serious cases can be fatal.
  2. Alcohol and coffee are both toxic for dogs.
  3. Avocados contain persin causing vomiting, diarrhoea and heart congestion in dogs.
  4. For cats and dogs, chocolate can cause elevated heart rate, seizures, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  5. Macadamia nuts contain a toxin that can inhibit movement and cause panting, weakness and swollen limbs.
  6. Onions and chives contain disulphides and sulfoxides, which can cause anaemia and damage red blood cells.
  7. Peaches, plums and persimmons and apple pips contain a substance that degrades to cyanide.
  8. Xylitol - a common ingredient in sugarless treats and sugarless gum is dangerous.
  9. Sweet-corn cobs can cause blockages in the small intestine that may need to be removed surgically. Don't let your dog chew on the cob.
  10. Turkey skin, pork crackling, sausages and fatty meats not only add extra calories but can lead to intense pain due to pancreatitis.