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Chocolate is not for pets.

Food, glorious food but not for pets

Bev Truss
Bev Truss

Most of us are now thinking and planning for the festive season. Next to gifts, food and drink play a huge part in our celebrations, so we need to make sure our pets are looked after as well.

Chocolate is a harmful food for pets. Most adults know this but it is the responsibility of adults to make sure children know too. Keep little ones from giving chocolate to pets and do your best to supervise.

Cats are especially sensitive to sage. It can cause stomach upset and central nervous system problems, so be careful with the sage and onion stuffing.

Chocolate, coffee and caffeine all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, these can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Alcohol and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased co-ordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.

Leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart, which may even be fatal.

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many sweets and biscuits. However, they can cause problems for your dog. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last up to 48 hours.

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

Xylitol, which is used as a sweetener in many products, can lead to liver failure and lowered blood sugar levels. Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination and seizures

Onions, garlic and chives can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Cooked bones and corn cobs can also be a problem, as cooking makes the bones brittle and they are far more likely to cause blockages in the gut and could mean a trip to the vet for surgery.

With sweets, too much sugar can give your pet a bellyache but, worse, if wrappers are swallowed, your pet risks tearing or blocking the oesophagus or intestines. Clean up as best and frequently as you can when sweets are being unwrapped and dispose of all aluminium foil, plastic wrap and wax paper. While licking up food left on these wrappings, pets can ingest some of the wrapper. Also, look out for tooth-picks, skewers and cooked bones.

Remember the wildlife and dispose of rubbish carefully. Cut plastic can rings and double wrap the cooked turkey and meat bones. Wildlife finds it hard to get through a bad winter without the added challenge of getting sick because of thoughtless waste disposal.

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