From your dog's perspective, Christmas is a time of the year
when lots of unusual and exciting things are brought into your
home, making it a very tempting time for them to get up to all
sorts of mischief. Interesting foods, unusual plants and
trees, attractive decorations and Christmas presents will all be of
great interest to your dog, but some of these things may be harmful
The list below may appear like a long list of things for your
dog to avoid, but it is important to remember that they are not
human, and that some human foods can be very dangerous to
dogs. If you wish to give your dog a treat this Christmas,
please ensure that it is something dog-friendly and avoid giving
them the foods listed below.
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is
poisonous to dogs, as well as other animals such as cats, rodents
and rabbits. Generally speaking, the darker and more expensive the
chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore the more
poisonous it is. White chocolate contains very little
theobromine and so is unlikely to cause chocolate poisoning, but is
still very fatty and can still make your dog ill.
Chocolate can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but is a
stimulant and so can lead to your dog becoming excitable, as well
as developing muscle twitching, tremors, fitting and life
threatening problems with their heart. Severe cases can be
Over the Christmas period make sure that all chocolate is out of
the reach of your dog, this includes chocolate coins hung from your
Christmas tree, advent calendars, boxes of chocolate put out on
Christmas day and don't forget the wrapped chocolaty presents
under your Christmas tree (just because its wrapped doesn't mean
your dog can't smell it!). Although chocolate wrappers are
not poisonous, they can cause an obstruction in the gut if eaten.
This can be very dangerous and may require surgical
intervention. Signs of an obstruction may include vomiting,
lethargy, your dog being off their food, not defecating or finding
it difficult to defecate.
Raisins, grapes, currants and sultanas
Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are all toxic to dogs and
it is believed the dried forms of these fruits are more toxic than
grapes. It is not known why these fruits are toxic to dogs,
or how much is poisonous. Some dogs have eaten large
quantities of this fruit and had no effects, while others have
become unwell after very small amounts.
At this time of year, it is therefore important that all foods
that contain these fruits be kept away from your dog; these include
Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, fruit cake, mince pies, stolen
and especially chocolate covered raisins.
As well as possibly causing vomiting and diarrhoea, these fruits
can cause kidney failure, which can sometime be delayed for 24 to
72 hours. Kidney failure may sometimes present as a decrease
in urination, your dog may also appear dull, or show signs of
Prompt treatment is important. If your dog does eat any amount
contact your veterinarian immediately.
Why these nuts are poisonous to dogs is not known, but macadamia
nuts can cause your dog to appear weak (particularly in their hind
limbs), dull, sleepy and they can sometimes appear wobbly on their
feet, or they may appear in pain or stiff when walking.
Vomiting, tremors, lethargy and an increased body temperature can
also occur. These effects usually appear within 12 hours and
may last up to two days.
Some macadamia nuts are covered in chocolate and so pose a
double risk to dogs.
Roquefort and other blue cheeses contain a substance called
roquefortine C, which is a substance produced by the fungus used to
produce these cheeses. Dogs appear sensitive to this substance and
in more extreme cases can cause dogs to quickly develop muscle
tremors and seizures, which may last for up to two days.
Dogs are believed to be more sensitive to ethanol than
humans and so drinking even a small amount of alcohol can cause
effects. Certain alcoholic drinks may be more appealing to dogs,
such as cream or egg based drinks. Dogs may develop
similar effects to those expected in humans, including becoming
drowsy, wobbly on their feet and in more severe cases they can
develop low body temperature, low blood sugar, seizures and
When cooked, all bones become brittle and can easily
splinter. Eating chicken, turkey or goose carcases may cause larger
pieces of bone to cause an obstruction, while smaller pieces may
irritate the gut, or even penetrate the stomach or intestinal wall,
which may require surgery.
When preparing your Christmas day meal, ensure that any meat is
kept on the kitchen surface, or out of reach of your dog.
When throwing away a carcass, take it to the outside bin, therefore
avoiding any temptation for your dog to raid your kitchen bin
during the night.
Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the
Allium family. These plants all contain a substance which can
damage red blood cells in dogs and can cause life threatening
anaemia. Signs may not present for a few days, but can
include your dog vomiting, having diarrhoea or abdominal pain and
they may appear sleepy, dull, weak, off their food and sometimes
they may have rapid breathing. At Christmas ensure that your
dog is kept away from sage and onion stuffing, onion based gravies
or any other allium based foods.
Rich Fatty Foods
Many Christmas foods are very fatty or rich, and a festive
overindulgence by your dog may result in a nasty bout of vomiting
and diarrhoea. Large high fat meals can lead to pancreatitis,
a very painful and serious condition, which can be costly to
It's easy to overestimate how much food is needed over the
Christmas period and some food may be thrown away. Mouldy
foods can contain lots of different toxins and, if eaten, may make
your dog ill. One particular substance, which is mostly found
on mouldy dairy products, bread and nuts, can cause dogs to quickly
develop muscle tremors and seizures, which may last for up to two
days. If you compost your food scraps, then make sure that
they are kept outside in a sealed container that your dog can not
Poinsettia is often said to be very toxic, but the potency of
this plant is often greatly exaggerated. Whilst it may not be as
poisonous as you think, it can still cause excessive salivation and
This plant is generally considered to be of low toxicity, but
the spikey leaves may cause physical damage if eaten, and the
berries can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
This festive shrub is considered to be of low toxicity, but the
berries may cause a tummy upset if eaten. Some reports
suggest that mistletoe is very poisonous, but these refer to
American mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens), which is native to
warm temperate and tropical regions of the Americas, rather than
European mistletoe (Viscum album), which is native to Europe.
This vine may cause a tummy upset if eaten, while substantial or
prolonged skin contact can cause severe irritation, or an allergic
contact dermatitis. Not to be confused with American poison ivy
(Toxicodendron radicans), which is not commonly found in the
Potpourri is made up of a number of dried plants and flowers.
These fragrant decorations may cause, at the very least, vomiting
and diarrhoea. How toxic your potpourri is will depend on
which dried plants have been used. Identifying which plants
are in your potpourri is often very difficult, especially as the
dried plant matter are often artificially coloured. Potpourri
often includes harder items, like pine cones or bark, and these
could become stuck in your dog's throat and cause breathing
difficulties, or an obstruction in their gut. This can be very
dangerous and may require surgical intervention. Signs of an
obstruction may include vomiting, lethargy, your dig being off
their food, not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.
Most species of Christmas tree are of low toxicity, but oils
from the needles may be irritating to the mouth and stomach,
causing excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea if chewed.
Needles from these trees are sharp and can cause physical
Additional Christmas tree concerns.
Tinsel, ornaments and Christmas tree lights may be enticing to
your dog and may appear to be great toys, but they can cause and
obstruction, or even gastric rupture if sharp, spikey or easily
breakable. Christmas tree lights also may cause an electric
shock if chewed.
Care should be taken when using antifreeze products, which may
contain the chemical ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol can be
lethal when ingested and its sweet taste may make it tempting for
dogs. Antifreeze should therefore be stored in secure
containers away from pets. If using antifreeze, make sure
that your pets are kept well away and if any is spilt, ensure that
it is cleaned up. Effects of poisoning may initially appear
as vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness and the dog appearing drunk.
An untreated poisoned dog may then appear to recover, but this may
be followed by kidney failure.
Prompt treatment is important. If your dog does drink or lick
any amount contact your veterinarian immediately.
If a battery is chewed and punctured by your dog it can cause
chemical burns, or even heavy metal poisoning in very extreme
cases. If swallowed whole, they are less likely to leak their
contents, but can still cause a blockage. This can be very
dangerous and may require surgical intervention. Signs of an
obstruction may include vomiting, lethargy, being off their food,
not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.
Button batteries that become stuck in the throat, or in the gut,
can produce an electric current which can significantly damage the
Silica gel sachets
These small sachets are commonly found in the packaging of items
such as new shoes, electrical items, handbags etc. Silica gel
is non-toxic, but the sachet is often labelled "Do not eat", not
because it is poisonous, but because it is not a food item and
therefore should not be eaten. Although silica gel sachets
are non-toxic, they could still cause a dangerous obstruction in
Wrapping or crepe paper
Eating wrapping paper or crepe paper may result in staining in
and around the dogs mouth, which may look worrying, but both
substances are of low toxicity and so unlikely to be
poisonous. Eating a large amount however, may cause a
potentially dangerous blockage in the gut.
During the excitement of Christmas, children's toys may appear
appealing to dogs and parts of toys may be swallowed, causing a
potentially dangerous blockage in your dog's gut.
What to do if you are concerned that your dog may have
eaten something that they shouldn't have?
- Consult your local veterinary practice immediately
- It is important that your veterinary practice make an informed
decision as to whether your dog needs to be clinically assessed or
treated. Where possible ensure that you tell them:
- What your dog has eaten
- How much has been eaten
- When it was eaten
- Do not try and make your dog sick. Trying to do this can
sometimes cause other complications, which can make your dog