PFMA | PET GAZETTE | 17
In this latest feature, Nicole Paley of the
Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, gives
advice on festive foods that can be harmful
to pets and highlights the importance of
maintaining the usual feeding and exercise
routine during the holidays.
FESTIVE FOODS THAT ARE UNSUITABLE
Many of our favourite festive foods have hidden dangers for pets so
owners need to be aware and keep them out of paws reach:
Chocolate – According to the BVA, chocolate remains one of the
most common causes of toxin ingestion in pets over the festive
period. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is
poisonous to dogs, cats, rodents and rabbits. The richer and darker
the chocolate, the more theobromine it is likely to contain. Chocolate
can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea but it is a stimulant which
can lead to pets becoming over excited as well as developing muscle
twitches, tremors, fitting and life-threatening heart conditions. Severe
cases can be fatal and even relatively small amounts of chocolate can
be harmful especially considering dogs are smaller than people.
Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas – These are common
ingredients in a range of festive foods (such as Christmas cake,
Christmas pudding, mince pies), all foods containing these fruits
should be kept away from pets.
Macadamia nuts and peanuts – Can cause weakness and tremors.
Macadamia butter can also affect dogs.
Blue cheese – Roquefort and other blue cheeses contain a substance
called roquefortine C, which is the substance produced by the fungus
used in these cheeses. Dogs appear to be sensitive to this substance
and it can cause dogs to develop muscle tremors and seizures.
Onions, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots (the Allium family) –
All contain a substance which can damage the red blood cells
causing anaemia. Ensure foods such as stuffing, onion based
gravies or any other allium based foods are kept away from pets.
Xylitol – is a sugar substitute in a number of food items (e.g. sugar
free chewing gum and sweets) and is increasingly used in medications
and nicotine replacement chewing gums.
Fatty foods – Many festive foods are rich and high in fat. Owners
need to be careful what they feed to their pets keeping fatty, human
food treats to a minimum. Any treats given need to be taken in to
consideration at mealtimes and they should make up no more than
10 percent of the pet’s daily food ration.
Alcohol – Pets are believed to be even more sensitive to ethanol than
humans so even a tiny intake can have a significant impact. It goes
without saying that pets should not have any alcohol.
Caffeine – In large quantities can affect a pet’s heart. Keep teabags
and coffee out of reach.
BE PLANT AWARE
Plants such as poinsettia, holly, ivy, mistletoe. Potpourri (dried plants)
can be harmful to pets so please make owners plant aware. The
Animal Welfare Foundation have produced a comprehensive list of pet
poisons, please visit: www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk. The
Veterinary Poisons Information is another useful resource for members
to be aware of: https://vpisglobal.com.
If owners are concerned their pet may have eaten something they
shouldn’t have, they should consult their vet immediately.
Pets, like children, thrive on routine. Our advice to owners is to stick to
their usual feeding routine and continue the regular walks and play
sessions. Keep harmful foods, plants and alcohol out of the way of pets.
A sudden change to a pet’s diet over the festive period may seem
like a treat for the pet and allows them to join in the festivities but it can
lead to digestive upsets, vomiting and diarrhoea which would spoil