How To Keep UK’s 9 Million Dogs Safe At Christmas

The UK's largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs, the Kennel Club, is alerting dog owners to the dangers posed to man's best friend over the festive period and is urging dog lovers across the UK to keep their much loved pets safe.

Throughout the Christmas period lots of items are brought into the home which may be of great interest to a dog, from unusual plants and trees, to Christmas foods, decorations and presents.  Whilst many are perfectly harmless, some can prove harmful or even fatal to dogs.

With an estimated 25% of households owning a dog[i], the Kennel Club has compiled a list to guide dog owners in what to be careful of over Christmas, which includes:


A number of foodstuffs can be harmful to dogs and these can cause a number of different clinical effects, ranging from vomiting and diarrhoea, to more severe effects such as seizures or kidney failure, depending on what is eaten.  Foods that should be completely avoided include chocolate, raisins, grapes, currants, sultanas, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, fruit cake, mince pies, stollen, macadamia nuts, blue cheese and allium species including onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives.  Mouldy foods, very rich, fatty foods and alcohol can also harm dogs so should be avoided.  Turkey, goose and chicken bones can easily splinter, particularly when cooked, and can cause obstruction and gut irritation and can penetrate the stomach or intestinal wall.


Certain plants that are brought into the house more commonly at Christmas can poison a dog or obstruct their airways if consumed.  Plants that can cause drooling and varying degrees of stomach upset if eaten by a dog include poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and ivy.  Eating potpourri can also result in a tummy upset, but may cause other more serious effects depending on which dried plants have been used. Most species of Christmas tree are relatively low-toxic but oils from the needles can irritate the mouth and stomach or can cause an obstruction.


Christmas presents are often just as intriguing and exciting for dogs as they are for humans, and can present a number of health concerns.  Electronic gifts and toys often contain batteries, which if chewed and punctured by a dog can cause chemical burns or may obstruct the airways.  Other items which may obstruct a dog's airways include small toys or gifts with small parts, wrapping paper or crepe paper, Christmas decorations, including baubles and tinsel hanging from the Christmas tree and plastic materials used for wrapping presents.  Signs of airways obstruction can include vomiting, lethargy, a lack of interest in food, not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.


Care should be taken when using antifreeze products, which contain the chemical ethylene glycol, which can be lethal when ingested by dogs.  The sweet taste of antifreeze makes it tempting for dogs, so products should 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.

Nick Sutton, Kennel Club Health Information Officer and former veterinary toxicologist, said: "There is no reason dogs can't enjoy Christmas with their families just as much as their owners do, however we would thoroughly recommend being cautious and keeping anything that may pose a risk to your beloved family pet in a safe place and out of sight and smell of your dog.

"Many dogs die or become very ill every Christmas from eating things they shouldn't and this is mostly avoidable.  An emergency trip to the vets on, or around, Christmas day is the last thing you or your dog want.  Christmas for many people is an exciting and busy time, but to avoid your dog becoming unwell, try to remember that many items associated with Christmas can be very tempting but harmful for a dog, particularly if left unattended.  If you believe your dog has eaten anything it shouldn't have, seek veterinary advice immediately and let the vet know what your dog has eaten, when it ate it and how much was consumed.  Never try and make your dog sick if it eats something it shouldn't have, as this can make things worse.

"It is a good idea to get a couple of new toys for dogs to play with during the Christmas period and to give them a good deal of exercise outside to keep them occupied and away from things that may cause them harm.

For further information about what can cause harm to your dog at Christmas, visit

[i] Pet Food Manufacturers' Association Pet Population 2014 report.

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