Emergency vets are warning dog owners to keep festive treats away from their pets to avoid mince pie madness.
The Vets Now Hospital in Glasgow saw 50 dogs admitted for urgent mince pie treatment in just one day over last Christmas, their busiest time of the year.
“It was unbelievable, it was like every dog in Glasgow had eaten a mince pie,” said Lead Vet John Sheppard.
“They are very toxic, and we need to give the dogs a drug to make them sick and get it up. But we had so many cases we thought we were going to run out of the drug, which would have been a nightmare.”
The Glasgow hospital is one of more than 60 Vets Now hospitals and clinics open to deal with festive emergencies when vet practices across the country shut up shop for Christmas.
There are now 20 million pet cats and dogs in the UK and a third of them will experience an emergency this festive season, with Vets Now seeing a 79% rise in cases around Christmas and New Year.
They include all the “usual” accidents and illnesses, but the frontline vets, nurses and animal care assistants are, as ever, bracing themselves for the festive fallout.
Last year 958 dogs ate chocolate while another 667 scoffed the hazardous mince pies. There were also emergency dashes after too-close encounters with tinsel, advent calendars, Christmas puddings and even more unusual fare.
“We saw a dog that was being sick and when we X-rayed it something didn’t look quite right,” said John. “So, we passed a camera down into its stomach and saw some kind of material.
“Five of us spent two hours trying to grab it and just as we were about to give up, we got hold and out popped this totally intact kids’ teddy bear.
“I don’t know how on earth it managed to swallow the thing whole.”
It’s such a busy time of the year that extra staff are drafted in, and this year 10 vets and 20 veterinary nurses and animal care assistants will be on duty on Christmas Day.
And while the decorations have been up at the state-of-the-art North Street hospital for weeks and Christmas jumpers and tunes bring a seasonal note, it’s a hectic, non-stop shift for all involved.
“It goes right through,” said John. “Even Boxing Day is pretty crazy as obviously some people try not to come on Christmas Day and we see a lot of very sick animals then, too.
“It’s all very physically, mentally and emotionally draining for the staff as we also see people who wanted one last Christmas with their pet.
“And with general practices closed for a couple of days, people have held off and decide they need help, so anything and everything comes through the door.
“It’s by far our busiest time of the year and also the most emotional. Every client that comes in is happy and grateful we are there.”
The day shift for the team will start at 7am on Christmas Day, with vets and nurses arriving at intervals right through the day and night.
For dad-of-two John, like the rest of the staff, it means their own family festive dinner plans need to be put on hold while they look after the nation’s pets.
But the happy holiday spirit sees them through.
“I was on nightshift last year and when I came in, some of the team had made a complete Christmas dinner for us with turkey and all the trimmings,” added John.
“I don’t know how they managed it with everything that was going on, but it just shows the amazing team spirit and how we are all here for each other.”