Pet answers: some seasonal tips…

Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your festive animal health questions...

Q: I’m really looking forward to spoiling my dogs at Christmas but what treats can I give them that are safe?

Christmas is such a lovely time for both us and our pets and everyone deserves a little something special! We all like to indulge our pets but there are some foods that are dangerous to both cats and dogs. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even seizures so keep those selection boxes out of reach!

Caffeine is a stimulant that is great for getting us up in the mornings, but dogs are very sensitive to it. A quick slurp of tea or coffee may not cause any issues but eating coffee beans or teabags can cause real problems. Artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol can cause a life threatening drop in blood glucose levels.

Blue cheeses, especially stilton and roquefort, contain a chemical which dogs are particularly sensitive to and can cause intestinal signs and seizures if eaten. We generally recommend avoiding feeding large amounts of cheese or milk to dogs, anyway, as they don’t tolerate the lactose very well and can get tummy upsets.

As well as cheese, there’s always lots of alcohol around at Christmas time. Dogs don’t tolerate alcohol well at all and it can cause severe signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea and even death. Onions, garlic and chives can cause damage to the intestines and severe anaemia with the signs only showing a few days after your dog has eaten them. Raisins are particularly poisonous to dogs so make sure they don’t get any Christmas pudding or mince pies!

Dogs and cats process certain foods and chemicals very differently to humans and so this means that something that is very safe for us, can potentially be fatal for our pets. If you have any questions or are concerned that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, always contact your vet. Alternatively, you can contact the Animal Poison Line on 01202 509000 (charges apply) which is a dedicated phone service that helps owners that are worried if their pet has eaten something poisonous.

If you would like to give your dogs a treat this Christmas, I’d suggest a slice or two of turkey breast or even some raw vegetables such as carrot or broccoli. Better yet, treat them to a doggy selection box that will be full of yummy chews and treats to keep them occupied on Christmas Day!

Q: I’m going away for Christmas and I’m considering taking my cat with me to stay at a friend’s house. Do you think she’ll cope being in a different environment?

It’s lovely to meet friends and family at Christmas but some pets cope better with the change than others. It’s tricky to give you an exact answer as some cats would be able to adapt very quickly to a different house and environment, whereas others would find it impossible.

The majority of cats are creatures of routine and don’t always deal well with change. The stress of a different house with different people (and potentially other pets) can cause behavioural changes such as hiding more or urinating in odd places. Personally, I would suggest that a cattery or having someone cat-sitting may be a better option to keep their routine as normal as possible.

If you decide to travel with your cat, I’d recommend taking a pheromone diffuser plug-in (these are available at your veterinary practice) to help keep stress levels low as well as some familiar toys and cat-beds. Try and ensure that your cat has somewhere in the house to get away from the hustle and bustle and don’t be surprised if they decide to avoid the busy areas of the house or their behaviour changes. It will also help to schedule some one-on-one time every day with your cat so they can enjoy some cuddles and not feel left out!

Do you have a pet or animal health question? Send it to us at: – Holly will endeavour to answer all questions, whether published or not!

Dr Holly Norman BSc(Hons) BVetMed MRCVS, Veterinary surgeon and Joint Venture Partner at:

Peterborough Vets4Pets
231-233 St Paul’s Road
Peterborough PE1 3RL
T: 01733 890777

Bretton Vets4Pets
Inside Pets at Home
Unit 2 The Bretton Centre
Peterborough PE3 8DN
T: 01733 261094

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