Christmas Canine Hazards


It’s a little-known fact that Christmas is a more dangerous time for our pets.

Their usual home environment is filled with trees, unusual flowers and other decorations and cupboards are jam-packed with lots of tempting but potentially toxic food and drink.

At most veterinary surgeries, emergency call volumes increase by up to 40% over the festive season, and it’s often a result of dogs swallowing or chewing some of these unfamiliar things.

Here are some of the most common dangers:

  1. Chocolate is one of the most common reasons for an emergency trip to the vets.  Chocolate contains a stimulant
    called theobromine, a bit like caffeine, that’s poisonous to dogs and can be lethal.  Never put chocolate treats, or presents that may contain chocolate, on or under your tree.
  2. Christmas pudding and mince pies. All grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas, as well as foods that contain them, are toxic to dogs. Keep well out of reach and carefully dispose of leftovers.
  3. Macadamia nuts. Can cause weakness, tremors, vomiting and hyperthermia within 12 hours of ingestion. Keep locked away in a cupboard and never leave lying around.
  4. Onions. Can cause stomach irritation and lead to red blood cell damage and anaemia. All forms of onion can be a problem, even if an ingredient in stuffing or gravy, so make sure all leftovers are properly disposed of.
  5. Alcohol. Alcohol is significantly more toxic to dogs than to humans and may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma and even death. Clean up spillages as they happen and never leave leftover drinks lying around
  6. Artificial sweeteners. One sweetener in particular, xylitol, is found in many foods, including some cakes. Ingestion can lead to potentially fatal hypoglycaemia, acute liver disease and blood clotting. Even small amounts can be extremely dangerous so avoid at all costs.
  7. Blue cheese. Seen by many as a festive treat, blue cheese is at its best around Christmas because that’s when it’s made with the last of the rich summer milk. Most contain a substance called roquefortine C, which dogs are sensitive to. Keep well out of reach and dispose of leftovers.
  8. Cooked bones. Once cooked, all bones become brittle and splinter easily which can pierce your dog’s digestive tract or cause an obstruction. When preparing Christmas dinner, ensure all meat is kept on the kitchen surface and dispose of leftover carcasses in the outside bin.
  9. Christmas trees. Pine needles can cause mild stomach upset, cuts to the mouth and, in severe cases, even perforation of the intestines. Vacuum daily and keep trees watered or buy an artificial tree.
  10. Glass baubles. These tend to smash into shards when eaten, causing irritation, perforation or blockages. Opt for shatter-proof baubles or decorations made of pet-friendly materials.
  11. Tinsel. Dogs eat tinsel like we eat spaghetti. It can cause blockages or, even worse, work its way through the gut and into the intestine, which can be extremely serious. Use pet-friendly alternative decorations.
  12. Fairy lights. Some dogs will try to eat anything, including fairy lights. These may cause electric shock if chewed. Use an extension cord that shuts off automatically when damaged and tape all loose wires to the floor.
  13. Salt dough ornaments. Made by mixing flour and salt with water, these can cause potentially fatal salt toxicosis. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and seizures.  Hang them high and well out of reach or avoid.
  14. Poinsettia, mistletoe and ivy. All are mildly toxic and can cause vomiting, drooling, diarrhoea and other symptoms. Keep well out of reach.
  15. Lilies. Can cause convulsions and are potentially fatal when eaten in large quantities. If you’re keen on a Christmas bouquet, opt for red roses or white orchids instead.
  16. Potpourri. Can cause serious gastrointestinal problems which can last several days even after the material has passed through. Keep well out of reach.
  17. Toys. Some dogs will swallow anything that looks appealing, including children’s toys, even if it’s likely to put them at risk.  Monitor the opening of gifts and keep new toys out of reach.
  18. Batteries. Ingestion of batteries is more common at Christmas and can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. Never leave batteries, or small toys including batteries, lying around.
  19. Wrapping or crepe paper.  While toxicity is low, eating a large amount of paper may cause an obstruction in the stomach. Don’t leave wrapped gifts lying around and dispose of old paper in an outside bin.
  20. Silica gel. Commonly found in packaging and typically non-toxic, these can cause blockages in the gut. Monitor the opening of gifts that may contain these sachets and dispose of carefully.

With thanks to for the information in this article.