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3 reasons you shouldn't feed Christmas ham to your dog

6 December 2017
New research that will help your four-legged friends keep healthy

It might be tempting to let Fido hoover up the Chrissy leftovers but our veterinarians warn against feeding ham, nuts and other festive fare to your pets.

Christmas is a time of feasting for the two-legged members of the family but care needs to be taken with our four-legged friends, according to new research.

Some of the most common ailments and causes of premature death in pets are easily preventable – that’s a key finding of VetCompass, which is now established in Australia led by the University of Sydney. VetCompass is an opt-in nationwide veterinary records research project using big data to provide a better understanding of disease risk factors for common disorders. 

Veterinarians are providing a timely reminder to be pet-food aware this holiday season.

“There are some festive treats that dogs should never eat – like macadamia nuts or raisins or chocolate,” says University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Sydney chief executive Dr Mark Lawrie, in the new University of Sydney video.

For many families, ham is also a staple item on the Christmas table. Unfortunately for Fido, there are three very good reasons to resist.

1. A disease called pancreatitis

"Dogs can suffer from a very painful and life-threatening disease called pancreatitis … an inflammation of the pancreas," Dr Lawrie said. “Pancreatitis can be triggered by fatty ham such as offcuts and trimmings."

2.  A symptom called steatorrhea

"Fatty ham can also give your dog the equivalent of indigestion, which may lead to steatorrhea," said Dr Lawrie. "This results in fatty motions and nobody wants to be cleaning up unsightly stools at Christmas-time."

3. The risk of gastric dilation-volvulus (GVD)

"Ham is one of the tasty meats and is more likely to inspire scoffing … this response can cause an increased risk of gastric torsion or twisted stomach …

"So be a scrooge and don’t let your dog pig-out this festive season," Dr Lawrie said.

University of Sydney veterinary Professor Paul McGreevy has recently been involved in a study about gastric dilation-volvulus – a condition commonly associated with large meals especially after strenuous exercise.

The study analysed emergency-care veterinary clinical records from the VetCompass program in the United Kingdom. It found approximately four in five cases managed surgically survived to discharge, underlining the importance of presenting dogs to veterinarians promptly.

Warning signs include restlessness, drooling, panting and unsuccessful attempts to vomit.

Professional practice lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science Dr Anne Fawcett said she sees numerous dogs after Christmas, suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea.

"Most of those cases have involved dogs that have eaten either the Christmas ham, lamb or turkey – and we have seen some incidences as a result of prawns.

"Dogs often have a reasonably bland diet. A sudden influx of fatty festive foods can wreak havoc on their gut, leading to gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, or pancreatitis. They can also suffer from intestinal obstruction or perforation due to foreign bodies like bones, kebab sticks and toothpicks," Dr Fawcett said.

If your pet is unwell please get them to your vet. Don’t delay particularly if they have vomiting or diarrhoea and especially if they are not drinking. It could be a life threatening condition, such as pancreatitis or GVD.

Information about VetCompass in Australia is at vetcompass.com.au. Vets can register their interest in signing-up at vetcompass.com.au/practices/get-involved or by emailing info@vetcompass.com.au.

Rachael Di-Masi

Marketing Communications Officer (Science)

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