Christmas is a time for family, enjoyment and fun. However, it can present many opportunities that are dangerous to your Labrador. In this article, I’ll guide you through some of the dangers and help you keep your Labrador safe over the festive period.
Christmas is a time of indulgence for us humans; we also tend to spoil our dogs quite a lot, and so we should! However, not all of the lovely things we associate with Christmas are safe for your Labrador to consume or be around.
The most common risk to our dogs is chocolate. We have a massive amount of chocolate in our houses over Christmas, but it’s actually poisonous to dogs if they eat it. Chocolate can affect their heart, kidneys and nervous system, sometimes with fatal consequences. I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but Labradors are always hungry, so if you have chocolate in advent calendars, tree hangers or selection boxes, make sure you store them up high away from temptation.
I can guarantee that family gatherings in my house mean that someone will bring a box of chocolates. Unfortunately, not all of my guests are familiar with dogs and don’t appreciate the risks of chocolate, so I make it my job to ensure no chocolates get left on the coffee table or floor… they are just too tempting for a hungry Labrador.
The next danger is mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. These are highly toxic for dogs because they contain rich ingredients, specifically raisins and currents. We don’t know the exact reason that raisins and currants are toxic to dogs, but it’s thought to be either mycotoxin ( a mould) or salicylate ( a naturally found aspirin-like drug), and these can cause kidney failure if eaten. Be careful; you’ll find currants and raisins in Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, fruit cake and mince pies.
I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of us are going to enjoy a little tipple this Christmas. We know its effects on us humans if we consume too much alcohol, but it can also cause an array of severe health problems for your Labrador if they get hold of any. If your Labrador consumes any alcohol, they can suffer from vomiting, depression, breathing difficulties and dizziness.
With more alcohol around at Christmas, your Labrador may get opportunities to try and help themselves, so encourage all of your guests to keep hold of their drinks and never leave anything at Labrador level.
Next on our list of Christmas dangers is nuts, Macadamia nuts and certain other nuts can be very dangerous to your Labrador. They can cause dogs to suffer from vomiting, muscle weakness, or even seizures if they consume them. The larger nuts also present a pretty nasty choking hazard, so keep them away from your dog and take extra care not to drop any on the floor.
It is also important to say that not all nuts will be dangerous to your Labrador. So don’t be concerned if you feed them things like peanut butter on a LickyMat or in a Kong; that’s perfectly safe for your dog, as long as it doesn’t contain any xylitol.
Grapes are the next hazard, and that’s for the same reasons as currents and raisins. They are highly toxic to dogs and can lead to kidney failure. Even a small amount of grapes can have a harmful effect, so if you’ve got a bunch of grapes to go with your cheese board, make sure that your drunk uncle isn’t feeding grapes to your Labrador under the table.
Bones are the next potential hazard, specifically cooked bones. Labradors like a fresh bone to chew on, and that’s absolutely fine for them. When bones are cooked, they become weak and will split or splinter very easily, meaning that sharp bits of bone can become lodged internally and cause injuries with life-threatening consequences.
We bring many natural plants into our house at Christmas, some of which are dangerous and toxic if consumed by your Labrador. Poinsettias, those beautiful red leafy plants that are everywhere at Christmas, are actually toxic to dogs if they eat them. Holly and mistletoe also present a significant threat to your dog’s health, so make sure that you keep them out of reach if you bring plants into your house.
At Christmas, a living tree in the living room is a bit weird for your dog because they usually only see them when they’re in the park or the forest. Be prepared for your Labrador to chew the tree or even pee on it; even the best-behaved dogs will find this a challenge worth taking on.
If you have a real tree, you’ll probably be adding water to the stand to keep it alive as long as possible. Be careful that your dog does not get to drink that water as it will be stale, it will contain bacteria and probably a little bit of mould, which will lead to an upset tummy. If the farmer used fertiliser to grow your tree, you should also consider that potentially there will be fertilisers seeping out into that water. The best option is to barrier the Christmas tree off, preventing chewing and drinking of the water.
I know that you’re going to do everything you can this Christmas to protect your Labrador and keep them safe, but accidents do happen. If your dog consumes or eats something you’re concerned about, contact your vet immediately and ask the questions, “do I need to look out for anything in particular?” and “do you need to see my dog?”
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. So for the sake of a phone call, I urge you to reach out to your vet at the earliest opportunity. It’s also worth reminding you that your local vet office might not be running a standard service over the Christmas period. So do a bit of research before the Christmas break and make sure you’ve got the number of your nearest emergency vet during the festive season. If you or a family member needs to call a vet due to your Labrador consuming potentially harmful items, make sure you give them the following information. What exactly your dog consumed, how much they consumed, what the ingredients are, your dogs age and weight, their symptoms and any existing health conditions. This information will allow your vet to calculate the possible levels of toxins and how to give the best treatment.
Please have a great Christmas with your Labradors, have the most amount of fun and do everything you can to keep them safe.