Pet owners could avoid emergency visits to the vet over the holiday season by following a few simple guidelines from the staff of the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
"The last thing people want for their pets during the holiday season is an emergency," says the Head of School, Professor Gail Anderson.
In order to help pet owners and their pets enjoy a happy holiday, here are some things to be aware of:
"Chocolate may be full of antioxidants and good for humans in small doses but it is dangerous for our furry friends," Professor Anderson says.
"Chocolate contains ingredients toxic to dogs, namely theobromine and caffeine. Potentially lethal doses are as little as 7 grams of baking chocolate or 60 grams of milk chocolate per kilogram body weight in dogs. That is as little as a teaspoon per kilo of dark chocolate, so little dogs and pups are at greater risk.
"Signs of toxicity include vomiting and diarrhoea within a few hours of eating the chocolate, increased alertness and hyperactivity, then seizures and increased heart rate, with collapse and death possibly resulting within 12-36 hours of eating."
Professor Anderson says urgent treatment in these cases is needed, with hospitalisation and careful monitoring for at least 36 hours in some cases. "Obviously, the best thing is to be vigilant and not leave any chocolate unattended - that includes wrapped chocolate under the Christmas tree," she says.
Wrappers, ribbons and tinsel
"Pets eating foreign material such as paper, tinsel and ribbons is common at this time of year," Professor Anderson says. "All these things may appear as toys, especially to young animals or cats, and in their playfulness they may inadvertently swallow pieces of string or tinsel.
"This foreign material does not block the gut immediately but passes into the small intestine and can cause the gut to concertina on itself and cause obstruction slowly. The animal will go off food and vomit occasionally until the bowel is completely blocked, when vomiting will occur frequently and illness progresses rapidly."
Professor Anderson says the material must be removed surgically, in most cases requiring hospitalisation, intravenous fluid support and gut protective medications while the gut recovers.
"Being aware of how enticing ribbons, string and tinsel are to pets should make us wary and not allow them to play with these materials," she says.
Explore further: Virus in bats homologous to retroviruses in rodents and primates