Keeping Pets Safe at Christmas

In an average year, around 90,000 reported accidents involve pets and at Christmas the number of mishaps around the home doubles thanks to contributing factors such as Christmas trees that fall down and fairy lights that cause injuries, turkey fat spillages and broken baubles.

Overindulgence is one of the prerequisites of the Christmas period. A slice of turkey breast and a small helping of carrots and sprouts is fine, but a large dog, filled with a large meal taken on an energetic walk is a potential victim of gastric torsion (twisted stomach). Unless treated immediately the condition can prove fatal.

Daly, an English Setter, suffered a gastric torsion last year that required surgical correction and cost his owners almost £1500. In Daly's case, his owners had taken out insurance with Pinnacle Pet Healthcare so his veterinary treatment was covered by his Lifelong policy.

Susan Barry, Daly's owner commented: "Daly is one of several deep-chested breeds of dog that are prone to gastric torsions and we have to remain very vigilant in spotting the signs which in Daly's case appear to be connected to excess wind and flatulence, a bloated stomach and obvious signs of discomfort."

Bloat can also be caused from eating just one large single meal in a day, drinking large amounts of water on a full stomach and gulping food down very quickly.

Duncan Brady, veterinary surgeon from Spring Lodge Veterinary Hospital, the practice that treated Daly's condition, said: "Any dog with bloat is treated as an emergency and it is vital to get the dog to the vet immediately. Around 30% of dogs with gastric torsions cannot be saved and early detection will increase the chances of survival."

Last year Pinnacle Pet Healthcare received a growing number of foreign body claims, including one for a dog that swallowed a cocktail stick, which unfortunately pierced the wall of his abdomen in several places, requiring complex surgery at a cost of over £1500.

"Christmas and the general spirit of generosity can be a problem for pets," says Simon Wheeler, Marketing Director for Pinnacle Pet Healthcare. "Just looking at some of the many claims we have received highlights the dangers of dogs eating turkey bones, helping themselves to the chocolates under the Christmas tree and charging around on a large meal. Spending Christmas in the vets is no one's idea of a good time and without the cover of insurance, a bill for treatment can be an unwelcome surprise gift."

To avoid disaster for your dog or cat at Christmas Pinnacle Pet Healthcare has listed 10 safety firsts:
* Christmas trees are the most common cause of accidents over the festive season so ensure that the tree is in a corner position and secured so that it cannot topple on your pet or other passers-by.
* Fairy lights are responsible for more than 300 accidents a year and pets, especially cats, can rarely resist them. Cover any trailing power cables to discourage pets from biting or playing with the wires.
* Decorations are best hung well out of paws' reach. Treading on a glass bauble or swallowing a bite-size decoration can cause a pet a great deal of pain and require immediate veterinary attention.
* Plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettia make a traditional appearance at Christmas but they are poisonous to pets. Make sure that they are displayed well out of harm's way and that all berries are cleared away before your dog clears them first.
* Alcohol is not good for pets. Never leave half-empty glasses and tumblers on the floor as a dog will help himself to whatever is left and then everyone will suffer the consequences!
* Food is never to be given in man-size portions to a dog. Large breeds such as Boxers, Dobermans and Setters should never be encouraged to charge around after a large meal as this can lead to a potentially fatal twisting of the stomach (gastric torsion). A little turkey breast and some vegetables are fine as a treat but never include the bones. Turkey and chicken bones can become lodged in the dog's throat or intestines and often have to removed surgically before they cause greater damage.
* Treats are bad for a pet's teeth and waistline. Chocolate also contains the chemical theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs. So beware what items you feed your pet.
* Toys are a must at Christmas but check the quality of each item before you present it to your dog.
* Safety, especially in the kitchen, on the stairs and crowded rooms is paramount. Boiling pans, scalding liquids and hot cooker rings are especially dangerous to dogs and cats. Keep pets safe and away from the temptation of tit-bits left in bins and on high work surfaces. Make sure that cocktail sticks and other easy to swallow items are not in the pets reach. Always keep your vet's telephone number and a pen by the phone in case of an emergency.
* Routine is good for dogs so try to maintain the usual walking and feeding times. Remember two or three smaller meals are better than a single large one.

For more information contact: -
Pinnacle Pet Healthcare on: 0845 2000 738 or visit them at

For more editorial information contact Sue Robinson on 01694 781501