Christmas – the food risks for your pets

Christmas cat and dog eatingWe all overeat at Christmas and our pets are no exception. Whilst it is tempting to give our pets treats that we ourselves enjoy, some of these can be harmful to them. The most common ones to avoid are:


This is probably the best known hazard, particularly at Christmas when there is more lying around. The toxic compound in chocolate is theobromine. The higher the cocoa content, the more dangerous the chocolate. You can recognize that your dog has eaten a toxic dose of chocolate from the symptoms. Within the first few hours, the evidence includes vomiting, diarrhoea or hyperactivity. As time passes and absorption of the toxic substance increases, the dog’s heart rate increases. This can cause arrhythmia (a disturbance in the heart beat), restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination or excessive panting. This can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and even death.

Christmas pudding

This contains raisins and sultanas, and there have been reports of dogs developing renal failure after eating even small quantities of them. Grapes can potentially cause the same problem.


All parts of the plant are toxic to dogs. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over takeaways or even baby foods are not a good diet for your pet. It is possible that other members of the onion family such as leeks, garlic and chives may cause the same problem.

Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet’s red blood cells burst while circulating in its body. Pets affected by onion poisoning will suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea. They will show no interest in food and will be dull and weak. The red pigment from the burst blood cells appears in an affected animal’s urine and it becomes breathless. The poisoning occurs a few days after the pet has eaten the onion.


We should remind all cat owners that lilies pose a significant risk. All parts of the plant including the flower and pollen are poisonous leading to possible kidney failure and death.

Small toys and other objects

It’s also important to keep your new Christmas gifts and any small toys away from your pets. We’ve had to operate on pets to remove a variety of objects including: socks, knickers, stones, tennis balls, golf balls, handkerchiefs, peach stones, corn cobs, a dust pan and brush, a washing machine hose, an engagement ring and a rubber smurf!

We hope that all our readers have a happy Christmas and remember please don’t buy a pet for Christmas. It is a real commitment and responsibility. Think first and then consult your veterinary surgery. We can help you come to a decision that takes into account your needs, the animal’s needs and your lifestyle. If you make the right choices you will have a loving and friendly companion for life.

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