Millions of dogs around the country will be fed festive treats which could potentially harm them this Christmas, a study has found.
A survey of 2,000 dog owners has revealed a startling lack of knowledge around the festive foods which shouldn’t find their way into the dog bowl.
One in eight owners will treat their pooch to a mince pie from the table, which contains potentially toxic raisins, and over a third will give their pup a meaty bone.
But cooked bones often splinter and can cause injuries or damage the stomach and intestine, while raw meaty bones can be a choking hazard, damage teeth or cause digestive upsets.
One in six will even give in and let their pooch have a piece of chocolate, which is toxic to dogs, especially treats with a higher cocoa content.
Sean McCormack, head vet at dog nutrition company Tails.com, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many dog owners embracing their pooch at Christmas time and bringing them into the festivities with a special treat.
“However, treats like mince pies, chocolate, bones and cheese can all serve to aggravate your dog’s digestive system, or cause even more serious harm.
“Pigs-in-blankets, for example, are an extremely fatty treat which can upset a dog’s digestive system, or even lead to a painful case of pancreatitis.
“Nobody wants to end up at the vet clinic on Christmas Day.”
The study found that nearly three quarters of dog owners notice their pooch puts on weight in the winter months.
Vets estimate nearly half of all dogs in the UK are overweight or obese, yet dog owners themselves don’t see their own pup as part of the problem, with just one in seven currently believing their pet is overweight.
And while over a third make extra effort to get out and about with their dog around Christmas time, only one in 10 walk their dog for longer after they have been at the treats.
One in five owners can’t bring themselves to take their dog for a walk on Christmas day at all, preferring to stay inside in the warm instead.
It also emerged that a generous seven in 10 dog owners think they are more likely to treat their pet during the Christmas period than any other time of the year.
Yet two thirds have never considered the harmful effects of feeding their dog leftovers and whether ‘human food’ might be damaging to their health.
And 31 per cent have worried about all the extra calories their dog will consume through bonus Christmas treats.
Brits think their beloved pooches would most appreciate a helping of turkey in their bowl as a festive feast, followed by a piece of roast beef and a cut of chicken.
As for some of the more unusual treats dogs find delicious, one owner noticed their pooch had developed a taste for jellybeans, while another likes nothing more than a bowl of mashed potato.
One health-conscious dog enjoys a side-salad of kale with each meal, and another cosmopolitan canine can’t get enough of avocado, despite the skin and stone of the fruit being known to cause stomach upsets in dogs.
Still, there are some snacks lucky dogs will turn their nose up at, with sprouts, red cabbage and cranberry sauce most likely to be left untouched.
One in six owners thought a treat in their bowl gave their dog extra energy, and a fifth noted their pooch becoming more excitable after an unexpected piece of Christmas nosh.
Lucky hounds across the UK are most likely to receive a squeaky toy as a gift for Christmas, followed by a special food item and a new bed to snuggle up in.
However, three in 10 owners aren’t planning on treating their dog this Christmas at all.
Of those refusing to celebrate the festive season with their pup, two thirds can’t see the point in putting in the effort when their dog doesn’t even know it’s Christmas, and 28 per cent don’t think they would appreciate the gift.
Tails.com head vet Sean McCormack added: “It’s important to be cautious about the treats you give to your dog both over Christmas and throughout the year, to make sure you avoid giving harmful foods and so your dog doesn’t pile on the pounds.
“It’s amazing how much we underestimate the calories in the ‘harmless’ treats we give our pets.
“Giving a small dog a single sausage can be the equivalent of us eating up to three cheeseburgers.
“To treat your dog in a healthy way at Christmas, stick to lean, cooked meat and healthier Christmas table staples like carrots and green beans.”
MOST POPULAR FOOD TREATS GIVEN TO DOGS AT CHRISTMAS
Pigs in blankets
DOG TREATS TO AVOID THIS CHRISTMAS
Sausages - high in fat, calorific (risk digestive upset or even pancreatitis)
Meaty bones - choking hazard, injury & blockage risk if swallowed
Cheese - high in fat, most dogs are actually lactose intolerant
Pigs in blankets - high in fat, calorific (risk digestive upset or even pancreatitis)
Mince pies - high in fat, contains raisins which are toxic to dogs (along with grapes)
Gravy - generally high in fat if it contains the meat juices from a roast dinner
Red cabbage - spices and vinegar could cause a dietary upset
Roast potatoes - high in fat, calorific and could cause a dietary upset. Mashed or boiled potato is OK in moderation as long as no butter, milk or salt added
Chocolate - toxic for dogs, with toxicity dependent on level of a chemical called theobromine found in cocoa. The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the more toxic it will be and even a small amount can lead to problems
Crisps - very fatty and calorific
Stuffing - onions can be harmful to dogs, and herbs or spices may cause a dietary upset
Christmas pudding - contains alcohol and raisins, both toxic ingredients for dogs