While it can indeed be the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas can also be a hazardous time of year for our pets. So many of the foods and decorations that we enjoy are potentially toxic or harmful to our pets - and that’s true of a lot of common (and very popular!) human foods. Some of the most common poisons and hazards that our pets can be exposed to at this festive time of year include:
Chocolate contains a harmful substance called theobromine which is poisonous to cats and dogs. The severity of the poisoning depends on how much has been eaten and what type of chocolate it is; Dark chocolate and raw cocoa contains more theobromine than milk or white chocolate. Symptoms of chocolate ingestion can include vomiting, diarrhoea, excitability, tremors/muscle twitching, seizures and heart problems. In some cases, it can be fatal. Make sure all chocolates are well out of reach of your pets, including chocolates on or under the tree as well as advent calendars.
Unfortunately, the caffeine in coffee has the same effects on our pets as theobromine in chocolate - although the good news is they’re less likely to drink the bitter brew that we enjoy. However, again, caffeinated substances should be kept well out of reach.
Raisins, currants, sultanas
These are commonly found in Christmas goodies like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies, stollen and chocolate raisins. These can be incredibly toxic to dogs, and even a very small amount can cause significant problems - toxicity is not dose dependent, meaning that in some cases a large amount may cause little or no problem, while in others even as little as four or five raisins could be dangerous. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and can lead to kidney failure - your pet may be more thirsty than usual, off colour and urinate less. Prompt treatment is vital.
Onions, garlic, leeks etc
Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives etc) contain a substance which causes damage to red blood cells and can cause haemolytic anaemia which can be life-threatening. Also, avoid onion gravy and sage and onion stuffing.
Bones from cooked meat are very brittle and can splinter easily. Eating turkey or chicken carcasses could lead to an obstruction or even perforation of the gut from a sharp piece of bone. When preparing your Christmas dinner make sure all meat is kept well out of reach of your dog or cat, and ensure when throwing away the carcass that they won’t be able to raid the bin!
These festive red plants can cause irritation if eaten, and often excessive salivation and vomiting.
Mistletoe, Holly, Ivy
These plants can all cause an upset tummy. Prolonged contact with even English Ivy can cause skin irritation and dermatitis.
Antifreeze contains the chemical Ethylene Glycol - which can be lethal when ingested. Unfortunately, it has a sweet taste which is tempting for both cats and dogs. As little as a teaspoonful can be very toxic for cats and can lead to acute kidney failure. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and weakness can be seen in dogs. Prompt treatment is essential.
Tinsel, ornaments, tree lights, batteries, silica gel sachets, toys
These should be kept out of reach of inquisitive dogs as, if swallowed, they can cause a gut obstruction or even perforation if sharp or spiky, requiring surgery.
If you are concerned that your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t have then contact your vet immediately. Ensure that you tell your vet what your dog has eaten and how much it has eaten, and take any product or packaging labels along with you with information about the contents of what they’ve ingested.