Western Bay pet owners are being warned to ensure their beloved animals are well cared for this Christmas, and not to spoil them with potentially fatal chocolate, sausages or fruit mince.

Many owners are checking their pets into catteries or kennels these holidays and giving them special treats or Christmas presents to help ease the pain of separation.

Exotic meats, garnishes on pet food and instructions for toys to be given out on Christmas Day are just some of the requests animal accommodation providers field from fussy pet owners.

Tauranga Kennels and Cattery owner Richard Mackay said he had received a few animals already that had come with special treats for Christmas - "but just the normal stuff: stuffed animals, bones, dog rolls and new bedding.


"Nothing out of the ordinary, but we have had some strange ones in the past when people have wanted us to put up mirrors and pictures of the family in the kennels.

"People are very particular about their dogs," he said.

Westridge Boarding Cattery owner Kelly Plumpton, in Tauranga, said she was completely booked up until mid-January.

However, none of her customers sent treats or toys in with their cats for Christmas.

"But they do get chicken on Christmas Day and they have got decorations hanging in the cattery at the moment."

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) said many of the rich Christmas foods humans enjoy are not suitable for dogs.

NZVA's Companion Animal Society president, Dr Cath Watson, said chocolate, fruit mince, and fatty barbecue meats like sausages could cause everything in dogs from mild reactions such as vomiting and diarrhoea, to severe reactions such as abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, tremors, and pancreatitis - a potentially - fatal inflammation of the pancreas. Chocolate can also be toxic to cats.

Other serious problems can occur when dogs get into food scraps, Dr Watson added.

"These include ingestion of bones, which not only cause gut irritation, but can cause blockages that require surgery to treat."

SPCA Auckland chief executive Christine Kalin said while pet owners might want to spoil their pets with fancy food at Christmas, doing so was not recommended.

"Don't feed them festive food and don't think you're going to give your dog the chicken carcass as a festive treat ... just keep them on their regular diet.

"If you do want to treat them, buy some toy that's species-related."

If pet owners planned to head away they needed to make suitable arrangements for the care of their pet to ensure they had shelter, food and water, Ms Kalin said.

"You are responsible for your pet and one of the saddest experiences for us over the holiday period is our inspectors getting called out to places where people abandon their animals."

She reminded pet owners to ensure they had vaccinated their pets before they were put into a cattery or kennel.

It was also a good time to microchip pets in case they were left home alone and decided to wander.

additional reporting by Ruth Keber