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Top Tips for keeping your pets safe during the festive season!

7 December 2016

Top Tips for keeping your pets safe during the festive season!

As we start to decorate our homes for Christmas and start stocking up on festive nibbles, it is important to remember harmless foods and other items around the house can be a potential cause of illness or poisoning in our pets.

Here is our festive guide of food and household items to be avoided...



Chocolate poisoning is one of the more common culprits amongst dogs. It is also toxic to cats, rodents and rabbits. The toxic component in chocolate is a substance called theobromine. The severity of the poisoning depends on the amount and the type of chocolate ingested – dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate and white chocolate is relatively non-toxic. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, hyperactivity and a rapid heart rate. In extreme cases convulsions (fits) can occur, and liver damage may develop in the longer term.


Top Tips for keeping your pets safe during the festive season!


The high levels of caffeine in coffee can also be toxic to dogs, so take care how you dispose of coffee grounds from coffee makers! The clinical signs are similar to chocolate poisoning.

Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas can cause kidney failure in dogs. The mechanism for this toxicity remains unknown, with some dogs seemingly unaffected after eating large quantities and others developing symptoms after as little as a few grapes or a handful of raisins. Christmas cakes, Christmas pudding and mince pies are all packed full of forbidden fruit.

Other poisonous festive foods include macadamia nuts, onions and mouldy foods (e.g. walnuts, bread and cheese). Artificial sweeteners containing xylitol (also found in sugar-free chewing gum) can cause dangerously low blood sugar levels and liver failure in dogs. Finally, festive overindulgence in the form of a previously hungry dog and a now missing turkey can result in a nasty bout of vomiting and diarrhoea! So lock up your fruit cake, tie up your turkey and seal the selection box or Santa may be bringing you a little more than you bargained for this year...



Plants such as mistletoe, poinsettia, holly and ivycan all cause an upset tummy.


Top Tips for keeping your pets safe during the festive season!


Lilies can be very harmful (toxic) to our feline friends. The exact reasons for the toxicity are unknown but the majority of symptoms are due to kidney (renal) failure. Cats are very sensitive to any part of the plant they contact, so much so that some cases have developed clinical signs after they were exposed to the box that the flowers were delivered in.


Top Tips for keeping your pets safe during the festive season!


Household items


Top Tips for keeping your pets safe during the festive season!


Whilst Christmas decorations and candles are non-toxic they have the potential to cause an obstruction in the gut if they are eaten by an inquisitive dog or cat. Unfortunately lots of Christmas decorations and wrapping can be very attractive to pets and easily accessible.

If you are concerned that your pet has eaten something which might cause a problem, the first thing to do is contact your veterinary surgeon for advice. It is very helpful for the vet if you can get an idea of how much of a substance has been eaten, and also find any relevant packaging materials which might give more information about what might have been ingested.