New findings show dramatic rise in dangers to dogs in December

The Kennel Club offers advice to keep the nation’s dogs safe this Christmas, as new statistics show that dogs are more likely to be poisoned by harmful human foods in December

New research released today (12 December) by The Kennel Club shows that dogs were 75 per cent more likely to be treated for poisoned food in December compared to any other month in 2020. The statistics, collected by the dog welfare organisation’s insurance partner, Agria Pet Insurance, show that December has consistently been the highest month for intoxication claims since 2015. This comes as further research from The Kennel Club reveals that two fifths of dog owners (40 per cent) notice changes in their dog’s mood during the festive period, as they experience many new sights, sounds and smells for the first time.

As such, the organisation is urging pet owners to be careful of a number of canine Christmas dangers and sharing advice to keep the UK’s dogs safe this festive season.

Many traditional Christmas foods can be dangerous to dogs including Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, chocolate, mince pies and stollen.

Maisy, a Welsh Springer Spaniel was rushed to the vets aged just six months after consuming a box of mince pies last Christmas. “This incident highlights just how quickly a determined and hungry young dog can get themselves into a potentially life-threatening situation,” said Tim Burns, her owner. “We knew that mincemeat was dangerous, but Maisy surprised us with her ability to find and eat it so quickly. We were very lucky that we could act immediately, as there could have been a totally different outcome.”

Robin Hargreaves, Senior Veterinary Advisor for Agria Pet Insurance added: “Raisins and grapes in some circumstances can be highly toxic. Owners who think their pets have had access to foods containing raisins, which may be more likely over the Christmas period, should contact their vet for advice immediately.

“The treatment can be complicated and require hospitalisation for a number of days if the pet has had time to digest and absorb the food. It is always far better to be extremely vigilant and prevent access to grapes, or any food containing raisins.”

With many families celebrating their first Christmas with a four-legged friend, following a surge in interest in dog ownership during the pandemic, The Kennel Club, as the biggest organisation dedicated to canine health and welfare, is also warning owners about other festive considerations to be aware of.

New research shows 40 per cent of owners notice a change in their dog’s mood during the Christmas period, including appearing stressed by unusual people, noises and/or routines, and appearing unhappy. Similarly, nearly a quarter of owners (23 per cent) reported unusual behaviour from their dog during the festive season, such as destroying presents or decorations, and eating food from the dinner table. Almost one in five (18 per cent) also admit that their dog’s routine is disrupted over Christmas, either through being neglected with less play or attention, not having a walk on Christmas Day, or getting left at home more often than usual.

“For humans, Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year, but for our dogs it can be a very unusual and strange period. Not only are there plenty more people to meet, as well unfamiliar sights and sounds, but there are also a lot of tempting treats, which can be very dangerous for our canine companions,” said Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club.

“Of course, as part of the family, we all want to involve our dogs in the celebrations, but we need to ensure that all of the nation’s dogs can enjoy a stress-free and safe Christmas, particularly as it will be the first festive season for so many dogs and their owners.”

To help dog owners navigate Christmas safely, The Kennel Club has shared some important tips:

Toxic treats
Christmas brings with it an assortment of tasty treats for us, but sadly these are often not suitable for dogs and in some cases can even be fatal. With so much going on over the festive season, this can often be an ideal time for your dog to try and sneak a taste of some food while their owner’s back is turned, so try and keep any chocolate, mince pies and other snacks, including advent calendars and edible tree decorations, out of paw’s reach.

In addition, even foods that you might consider to be suitable for your pet should also be approached with caution. Christmas dinner leftovers, such as turkey, chicken and goose bones can easily splinter, especially when cooked, causing an obstruction and even piercing your dog’s stomach. Be careful of stuffing too – onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the allium family and all contain a substance that can damage a dog's red blood cells, causing potentially life-threatening anaemia.

If you think your dog may have eaten something that they shouldn’t, or they have symptoms including sickness and diarrhoea, speak to your vet straight away.

Dangerous decorations
Whilst we may not consider Christmas decorations, plants and presents to be edible, this is not the case for our dogs, who find these just as intriguing and exciting as the festive food. Be careful with certain festive plants - poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and ivy can cause varying degrees of stomach upset if eaten by a curious dog.

Be aware of your dog stealing gifts that aren’t for them from under the tree. Electronic gifts and toys often contain batteries, which if chewed or swallowed by a dog can be dangerous. Similarly watch out for your dog trying to eat small toys or gifts with small parts, wrapping paper or crepe paper, Christmas decorations, including baubles and tinsel hanging from the Christmas tree, and plastic materials used for wrapping presents. Some of these can have sharp edges, so can be especially harmful if swallowed, while others may cause a dangerous blockage in the gut.

Winter worries
With the onset of the festive season, comes colder, icier weather, bringing with it a number of seasonal dangers for our dogs. As well as being more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite when out on winter walks, if you take your dog out near a frozen lake then ensure they are kept close to you.

Care should also be taken when using antifreeze products that contain chemicals that can be lethal when licked or drunk by dogs. The sweet taste of antifreeze makes it tempting for dogs, so products should be stored in secure containers away from pets. Watch out too for dogs drinking out of puddles when it’s very cold, as the water can sometimes be tainted with antifreeze chemicals.

Seasonal stress
Dogs can have a lot to deal with over the Christmas period – excited and noisy children, crackers banging, presents being unwrapped and unfamiliar people, voices and smells.

It can be overwhelming so avoid forcing festive fun by making sure their routine isn’t disrupted – take them out on their usual walks and keep dinner time the same – and make sure they still have their usual space and bed so they can retreat and settle in their usual spot if and when they want to. Everyone is busy at Christmas with many spending more time away from home, but don’t forget about your four-legged friend or leave them alone for more than four hours. Remember too that many dogs will have got used to their owners being home more due the pandemic, so any transition to spending more time apart will need to be prepared for. While this Christmas might be more restrictive for us, our dogs may still be noticing quite a change.

There is further advice on how to have a carefree canine Christmas – from at-home training tips to more advice on avoiding seasonal dangers, as well as recipes for safe, seasonal snacks – on The Kennel Club's Christmas homepage.