Britain’s Alcoholic Pets: It’s Not Only Humans Who Eat & Drink Too Much At Christmas:

The Festive Season, as we all know, is traditionally a time for sharing and having fun – with your family, friends, colleagues and invited guests. If you have a dog or cat, you’ll probably want to include them in the celebrations as well. Which can be a big problem, not least for the animals themselves.

Most of us tend to be fairly relaxed about consuming rather more food and drink at Christmas than during the rest of the year. However, as the PDSA (People’s Dispensary For Sick Animals) has pointed out, what humans regard a “special treats” – such as Christmas cake, chocolate (especially brands with a high cocoa content), mince pies, sage and onion stuffing – can prove extremely harmful to our pets. In particular, they warn that onions, turkey bones on which they can choke, raisins, grapes, sultanas and certain nuts should be kept well away from our animals.

That’s not quite as simple as it sounds: While we are snoozing after a substantial Christmas lunch or dinner, our pets will have easy access to the leftovers. As Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, told the Sunday Telegraph journalist Patrick Sawer on December 4th, “Pets are inquisitive and will hunt out human food and drink that can be hazardous to their health. Dogs and other pets are far smaller than us so their toxic levels are reached much quicker – they can become distressed and disorientated and not understand what is happening to them.”

The “Veterinary Poisons Information Service” (VPIS) has warned owners that “Dogs will drink most forms of alcohol (for example, beer, wine spirits), but do seem to have a fondness for a particular brand of Irish Whiskey and cream-based liqueur” and indeed that almost 20% of the “canine ethanol cases” with which they have to deal involves this type of alcoholic beverage. Just like humans, they can end up with a hangover and be depressed & lethargic – though the consequences can be even more serious, depending on the quantity they’ve consumed.

According to Sawer, vets are concerned that the situation is getting worse because “more people are now drinking at home than in pubs” and they are also critical of the “sinister new phenomenon” whereby owners “deliberately give their animals alcoholic drinks so their antics can be filmed and broadcast on social media platforms such as You Tube”.

The 2016 “Pet Population Report” issued by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) has estimated that 11 million (40%) of UK households have pets and there are around 57 million pets across the country. Top of their list are “outdoor fish” (20 million), followed by indoor fish (16m), dogs (8.5m), cats (7.5m), rabbits (0.8m),guinea pigs (0.7m),indoor birds (0.6m), domestic fowl (0.5m), hamsters (0.4m), lizards, snakes, tortoises/turtles (all 0.3 m each).

In London, 312,000 households have dogs, though that figure rises to 931,000 in the south-east, 892,000 in the north-west and 547,000 in Scotland. By contrast, 428,000 households in London have cats, rising again to 745,000 in the south-east, 514,000 in the south-west, but dropping to 381,000 in Scotland, 136,000 in the north-east and just 106,000 in Northern Ireland.

PFMA surveys have indicated (as reported by The Guardian) that “cats are more likely to be owned by households with gardens and are less likely to live in homes where there is a dog” – although around 7% of UK households do have both a cat and dog. Furthermore, it would appear people with university degrees tend to opt more for a cat as a pet, possibly because they have “longer working hours and thus have less time to care for a dog”.

In 1978, Clarissa Baldwin, then Chief Executive of The National Canine Defence League, invented the slogan “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. The “Pets4Homes organization considers this message to be just as relevant today and queries whether it is really a good idea to buy a dog or cat during the festive season or to give one as a present. Natasha Ashton of the Huffington Post has advised any prospective pet owner to make sure they can provide for its needs, to assess whether it will be “compatible with the family’s life-style”, what they will do with it when they are travelling, that they should take it immediately to a veterinarian for a check-up, then get a pet insurance policy that will cover any illnesses and injuries”.

Under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, pet owners are breaking the law and can be prosecuted if they fail to provide the “Five fundamental needs of animals under their care: housing, diet, behaviour, social interactions and health”. Claiming ignorance is not a mitigating factor – yet, as the Daily Telegraph columnist, Pete Wedderburn, noted on 8th November: The PDSA Animal Welfare 2016 Report contains a depressing statistic: 65% of the population are not aware of their legal duties towards the animals in their charge”.

The Sunday Times reporter, Melanie Wright, lamented in the newspaper on 27th November that the cost of insuring her “beloved dog, Riley” has increased from £20 a month in February 2012 to £34 a month this year. Not only, she declared, are veterinary costs frequently exorbitant (the charge for an x-ray of a cat’s hind legs, under general anaesthetic, can be as high as £778) but also “as a general rule, insurers will only let you take out cover for dogs under nine.” Furthermore, “routine treatments such as vaccinations or flea treatment aren’t typically covered by pet insurance”.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on December 12th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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