The festive season is a time for decorations, delicious food and long overdue family get-togethers. While many of our pets will take it in their stride, some can get up to mischief, meaning we may end up having to let our turkey go cold as we rush them to the clinic on Christmas day! Luckily, being well-prepared pays off and if we put in the effort to avoid any holiday mishaps, we should be able to keep even the most curious of our cats and dogs safe all Christmas long.


Food, glorious food…

For many of our four-legged friends, food is the way to their heart and they tend to lose all self-control when tasty treats are nearby. During the holidays, we generally spend lots of time cooking and baking and often leave food sitting out on tables and other surfaces. The tempting smells can prove hard to resist for some, but there are a number of foods that can be highly toxic and must be kept away from our animals at all costs.



Most owners are now aware of the dangers associated with chocolate and know to keep it out of reach. The more chocolate that is eaten, the greater the danger and dark chocolate is the riskiest of all. This is because dark chocolate contains the most theobromine, the ingredient that can cause irregular heartbeats and even seizures. Beware of hidden chocolate within wrapped gifts, selection boxes, stockings and even some Christmas tree decorations. Our canine companions are particularly good at sniffing out concealed chocolate and will have it unwrapped and scoffed down in seconds.


Christmas Dinner

While many of us love to spoil our pets by giving them a ‘mini Christmas dinner’ or two, certain food items must be avoided. A small amount of cooked turkey and some roast veggies is probably fine for most, but we must avoid any stuffing, gravy or similar items that may contain garlic and onions. These ingredients can build up and cause red blood cell destruction and anaemia, especially if consumed over a long period of time.


Puddings and Pies

Puddings and mince pies are off the menu too unfortunately, as raisins and sultanas are highly toxic, potentially resulting in sudden kidney failure. Interestingly, we do not know exactly what it is about these food items that causes the kidney disease, nor do we know why some dogs and cats are at risk while others do not seem to be. To be safe, the advice is that all pets stay away from these festive baked goods.


If your pet has eaten any of the above foods, the sooner they are seen by a vet to make them vomit and initiate supportive care, the better the prognosis. This still holds true even if it means calling us at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day!



It is best to avoid giving bones too, as these can get stuck in between teeth, lodge in throats and even cause a life-threatening obstruction in the stomach and gut. Whether the bones are big or small, cooked or raw, the only way to ensure they do not cause any issues is to throw them in the bin.



Of course, as well as food there are a number of other hazards which we should keep in mind. Christmas trees and decorations can look like giant toys, especially to our cats. They may well decide to climb them, resulting in a fallen tree and a potentially squished and sore kitty! The tinsel and lights in particular can be hard to resist, but if chewed or eaten can result in big problems. Tinsel is notorious for causing dangerous intestinal blockages and chewing the Christmas light wires is never going to end well. Be sure the tree is stable and try to keep your cat well away. Bitter tasting sprays can be useful to deter any curious kitties who are lurking in the vicinity.


O Christmas Tree…

A ‘hidden’ danger that not everyone thinks of, are the pine needles that fall from Christmas trees. While they may seem quite innocent, they are just the right shape to lodge in our pets’ paws and can cause a great deal of discomfort and even infections. Avoid this from happening by either purchasing an artificial tree, or having the tree in a place that is out of bounds and hoovering up dropped needles on a regular basis.


While it’s clear that there are a number of things that we need to keep in mind to avoid Christmas calamities, the good news is that with a bit of common sense and forward thinking we can easily protect our furry friends from the hidden dangers of the festive season.