Kennel Club urges caution as festive period sees rise in dogs eating toxic food


New statistics released today (5 December) by The Kennel Club shows that dogs are more likely to be treated for eating toxic grapes and raisins during the festive period compared to the rest of the year. Both fruits can be found in a number of festive food, including Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies and, as such, the organisation is urging pet owners to be vigilant about canine Christmas dangers over the coming weeks.

The data, collected by the dog welfare organisation’s insurance partner, Agria Pet Insurance, revealed that more than a third (34%) of all claims for grape and raisin poisoning were made during the Christmas period (November 2022-January 2023). In fact, at almost double the monthly average, January was the highest month overall, highlighting that owners need to be vigilant both in the lead-up to the big day, as well as in the weeks following when pets may still be looking to get their paws on Christmas leftovers.

Robin Hargreaves, Senior Veterinary Advisor for Agria Pet Insurance, said: “Traditional Christmas foods, such as mince pies and Christmas pudding, are full of things that are toxic to our pets, including raisins and grapes, and there are often no symptoms until the dog becomes very ill, very suddenly. Owners who think their pets have ingested any of these should contact their vet for advice immediately.

“Of course, prevention is key and it is always far better to be extremely vigilant and prevent access to these foods, as well as other Christmas hazards, throughout the festive season.”

As well as the emotional toll that poisoning incidents can have on both pets and owners, there is also significant financial implications, with the average claim in 2022 overall costing nearly £500, while the highest claim made that year reached over £2,000.

Lynne and Darren Moran, from Willenhall, Staffordshire, know only too well how tempting Christmas food can be to dogs, when their 15-month-old Cocker Spaniel, Darcey, jumped onto the kitchen counter to grab a packet of mince pies, after Lynne and Darren had gone to bed, believing the treats to be well out of their pets’ reach. Instead, they arrived downstairs in the morning to find that, while Darcey had enjoyed the lion’s share of the treats, she had also shared them with the couple’s other two dogs. Knowing the danger their beloved pets were in, the pair rushed the dogs to their vets for emergency treatment and while the other two were sent home, Darcey had to be kept in for a further two days owing to the amount of raisins she had consumed, but thankfully made a full recovery.

Lynne said: “We thought we’d kept the mince pies in a safe place but unfortunately, Darcey has been practising her high jump and was able to get hold of them. Luckily we knew how dangerous this could be for all of our dogs, so we immediately rang the vets but it was an incredibly worrying time, particularly as Darcey had to spend quite a long time at the vets, but we were so pleased to have her home and enjoy Christmas all together.”

Unfortunately, there is a lot of festive food that is incredibly toxic to dogs, as well as a number of other festive features that can be hazardous to dogs. To help owners navigate Christmas safely, The Kennel Club has shared some important tips:

Toxic treats 

Try and keep any food out of reach from your dog – this includes advent calendars, chocolate coins and edible tree decorations: 

  • Chocolate is poisonous to dogs so it’s vital to keep any away from your dog – don’t forget decorations or gifts under the tree and make sure any visitors do the same 
  • Christmas dinner involves a large amount of dangerous foods for your dog, either through being toxic, too salty or too fatty. Be wary of feeding them traditional turkey, goose and chicken as bones can easily splinter, particularly when cooked, causing an obstruction and possibly even piercing your dog’s tummy 
  • Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding all contain dried fruits such as raisins, currants or sultanas which are toxic to dogs 
  • Other festive foods to avoid include: macadamia nuts, blue cheese, alcohol and mouldy foods 

If you think your dog may have eaten something that they shouldn’t or have symptoms including sickness and diarrhoea, speak to your vet straight away.   

“Christmas is often one of the busiest times for families but it’s important to never forget our four-legged-friends, and to always keep an eye on them,” said Bill Lambert, Head of Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club. “Not only can it be a very overwhelming few weeks, with lots of unfamiliar sights and sounds, but it can also be full of tempting treats, some of which can, unfortunately, be very dangerous for our dogs, as poor Darcey discovered.

“These statistics also show that, while Christmas Day itself may be over come January, there are still lots of leftovers around the house that can land in the wrong paws, so it is vital that owners remain vigilant and keep these well out of the way of their pets.”

Dangerous decorations 

Christmas decorations and presents are often just as intriguing and exciting for dogs as they are for humans. Trees covered in tinsel, ornaments and lights can pose a choking and/or puncture hazard as well as the risk of electrocution, while you should also watch out for:  

  • Small toys or gifts with small parts 
  • Wrapping paper or crepe paper 
  • Plastic materials or decorations used for wrapping presents 
  • Electronic gifts and toys – these often contain batteries, which if chewed or swallowed can be dangerous 

Be careful with certain festive plants, which can cause varying degrees of stomach upset if eaten by a curious dog: 

  • Poinsettia 
  • Holly 
  • Mistletoe 
  • Ivy 

Winter worries 

The winter weather also brings a number of season dangers for our dogs. As well as being more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite when out on winter walks, if you take your dog out near a frozen lake then ensure they are kept close to you.  

Care should also be taken when using antifreeze products that contain chemicals that can be lethal when licked or drunk by dogs. Products should be stored in secure containers away from pets. Watch out too for dogs drinking out of puddles when it’s very cold, as the water can sometimes be tainted with antifreeze chemicals.   

Seasonal stress 

Christmas can be overwhelming for our pets so avoid forcing festive fun by making sure their routine isn’t disrupted – take them out on their usual walks and keep dinner time the same – and make sure they still have their usual space and bed so they can retreat and settle in their usual spot if and when they want to. Everyone is busy at Christmas with many spending more time away from home, but don’t forget about your four-legged friend or leave them alone for more than four hours.  

There is further advice on how to keep your dog safe during the festive period on The Kennel Club website.