Be alert

for dietary pet hazards these holidays

Christmas is almost here, but along with the fun and extra time we get to spend with our fur kids, the festive season does come with an increased risk of them eating things they shouldn’t.

Pet insurance provider PD Insurance’s chief operating officer, Michelle Le Long, says the holidays are a particularly hazardous time for pets. It not only includes the perils of specialty foods that are fine for humans but toxic to animals, it’s followed by long summer days outside where pets can come across all manner of poisons, toxins and choking hazards.

“Over the last year almost 10% of our claims in NZ for dogs were due to accidental ingestion,” says Le Long. “These ranged from dogs who ate something poisonous and needed to be treated with drips or medication, through to dogs who had an obstruction and were choking, and dogs who needed surgical removal of objects from their trachea or stomach.”

“Only last week we resolved the final claim for a series of vet bills from one devastated owner who had to have their pet euthanised because the obstructions caused too much damage.”

Keep the human Christmas treats away from the fur kids

Christmas mince pies and chocolates are popular food items to have around at Christmas, but pet owners should be very careful to keep these out of reach of pets. Be alert also for cherry pits, Christmas nuts, onions, garlic and coffee, along with human medication, supplements and essential oils, as accidental ingestion of these could prove fatal to dogs and cats.

Both chocolate and the artificial sweetener xylitol are toxic to dogs and cats, so any food products containing these items should be kept far from the reach of a wandering tongue. The same goes for grapes and the raisins in fruit mince pies and slices of Christmas cake. They could prove fatal if your fur kid decides to wolf a couple off a plate set out for visitors.

“One grape slurped off a table can result in a $2,000 vet bill or more,” cautions Le Long. “Having pet insurance is a clever way to mitigate the cost of small accidents that result in big bills.” 

Watch those adorable dog gifts – they could cost you thousands

It’s a cute idea to include a toy for the family dog under the Christmas tree, but some can be dangerous and are a leading cause of dog choking cases, says Le Long. “Rawhide toys can splinter and cause choking when they get stuck in the throat as they break apart in large chunks, and chemicals and flavourings used in rawhide chews can cause digestive problems.”

She adds that stuffed (and braided) toys can be dangerous too, as the stuffing is often too easily accessible. “Dogs can tear the toys or shred them up and swallow large amounts of the materials. This can be a choking hazard, but dogs can also ingest the materials with seemingly no issues until they need to be surgically removed because your dog can’t pass them.”

In the last couple of months, PD Insurance has seen lots of claims – many in the thousands – for ingestion of common household items such as a nail, dishwashing cloth, shoe insole, meat-tray pad, pool cover, highlighter pen, socks and, very recently, tinsel off a Christmas tree!

Perils of the great outdoors

As we hit the bush, baches and beaches after Christmas, while living it up we’ll need to be alert for the many choking and poisonous hazards that could affect our beloved pets.

Cats tend to be fussier about what they eat, but are still at risk of eating birds, rats and mice that have been poisoned by humans. Aloe vera, cannabis plants and karaka berries are all toxic to dogs, and if you’re at the beach or river, look out for sea snakes, sea slugs, puffer fish, jellyfish and toxic algae.

Even if you’re a super-vigilant pet parent, fur kids still sometimes get themselves into trouble. If you find yours choking or devouring something they shouldn’t, pet insurance can provide a soft landing, both financially and emotionally.

Media contact 

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 

027 365 9003 | [email protected]