At Christmas: Toxins and Hazards

Christmas is a wonderful time of year with lots of new things for your pet to see and experience. Sadly some of the festive food and decorations can be toxic and dangerous for your pet so we’ve tried to compile a list of what to avoid. If you’re unsure and it’s not on the list, it’s safer to avoid and check before giving your pet anything different to their normal food and toys.

The Naughty List for your pets

Christmas Cake, Mince Pies and Christmas Pudding

These contain raisins and sultanas which even in small quantities can make a healthy dog very unwell. Sometimes they may show signs of vomiting or diarrhoea but this can progress over 24-72 hours to kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney failure can include reduced urine output, drinking more, reduced appetite and vomiting. This is serious and can be fatal so prompt treatment must be sought with your vet.

Grapes

Like raisins and sultanas, grapes can be highly toxic and lead to kidney failure even if small quantities are ingested. If you suspect your dog has ingested any grapes seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Chocolate

Whilst it might be very appealing for your dog to devour an entire tub of chocolates, this can be really serious. Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to dogs, cats and smaller animals too. The darker the chocolate the more theobromine it contains, which means it is also more toxic.  Not only does theobromine act as a stimulant and can raise your dog’s heart rate, it can also cause vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors and seizures.  Severe cases can be fatal.

Onions/Garlic/Leeks

These all belong to the same family and can cause damage to your pet’s red blood cells. This can this lead to anaemia (low red blood cell count) which can be life threatening. Signs may be subtle and may range from your dog having vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal pain to being lethargic, dull or having a quicker breathing rate. Avoid letting your dog have onion stuffing or gravy. This family is one to avoid.

Bones

Bones can be dangerous all year round but don’t be tempted to give your pets these as a special treat for Christmas. They can get lodged in your animal’s throat or intestines and cause blockages or breathing difficulty and lead to your pet needing invasive surgery. Cooked bones can splinter and cause internal damage to your pets. Some pets will raid bins for the Christmas Turkey carcass so it’s best to put it in the outside bin straight away to avoid temptation.

Alcohol

Whether it’s in your Christmas cake or in your glass, alcohol is a no go for your pets this Christmas. Our pets have a lower tolerance to alcohol than us so may initially show signs of drowsiness or wobbliness but this can progress to low body temperatures, low blood sugar levels and even seizures or comas.

Blue Cheese

These cheeses contain a substance produced by fungi to give them their blue veined appearance. Dogs are sensitive to this substance and tremors and seizures can be seen if ingested. These signs can last days so keep the Stilton safe away from your pets.

Macadamia Nuts

If your pet ingests these nuts they may show signs of wobbliness, pain when walking, vomiting, tremors, having a raised body temperature and lethargy. These symptoms may not show initially but can last up to 2 days.

Fatty Foods

Just like us, your pets may overindulge at this time of year but unlike us your pets can be at risk of developing a painful condition called pancreatitis. This can start with vomiting, diarrhoea and a reduced appetite but may progress to your pet needing to be hospitalised for intravenous fluids, pain relief and supportive care. It’s best to stick to their normal diet as some animals are more sensitive so even a small amount of rich food could cause them harm.

Mouldy Food

Leftovers might seem like a good idea to give your pet but mouldy food contains mycotoxins which can cause your pet to show signs of tremors and seizures. Be careful with composted foods and make sure your pet can’t access these.

Toys

 

There’s lots of toys around at Christmas, whether these are for your pets or for children around the festive period. It’s important to never leave a dog unsupervised with toys as they could be chewed or swallowed whole leading to blockages of their stomach or intestines. This can require life-saving surgery but prevention is much better than cure. Signs of a foreign body or blockage can be vomiting, reduced appetite or a lack of faeces being passed.

Batteries

Batteries can cause issues if eaten, either by leaking if punctured causing chemical burns or by getting blocked in your pet’s intestines. Urgent veterinary care should be sought if you suspect your dog may have ingested a battery. Vets may need to administer treatment to cause them to vomit it back up or surgery to remove the battery.

Silica Gel

These sachets can be in toys, shoe boxes or other packaging. They are labelled as “Do Not Eat” but pose a low toxic risk to your pets. Whilst this is the case, if eaten they could lead to a blockage so avoid your pets getting to these if at all possible.

Poinsettia

Although the risk of poinsettia has been exaggerated previously, it can still cause oral irritation and lead to excess salivation and vomiting if ingested.

Christmas trees

Whilst Christmas trees are considered a low toxicity, their pines or oils can still cause irritation if ingested. Your pet may show signs of salivation, vomiting or diarrhoea as well as oral pain. Whilst we love to decorate our trees with baubles, tinsel and trimmings, do remember that these if your pet eats them they can cause blockages or damage to their stomach/intestines. Also watch out for Christmas tree lights and electric cables – small animals especially may think these look like a tasty treat so keep them well out of their reach.

Holly

Holly is low toxicity but nevertheless their spiky leaves can cause physical irritation or the berries can cause vomiting or diarrhoea if ingested.

Ivy

If ivy is ingested then your pet may show signs of stomach pain or vomiting and diarrhoea. If your pet’s skin is exposed to this plan, they may show signs of irritation known as dermatitis.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe in the UK is of low toxicity but can still lead to an upset stomach if the berries are eaten so is best avoided around your pets.

Potpourri

Depending on what your potpourri is made of will determine how toxic it can be to your pet. Even non-toxic potpourri can cause irritation and obstructions in your pet’s intestines. This could lead to signs of vomiting or diarrhoea, a reduction in appetite or abdominal pain.

Antifreeze

Ethylene glycol is the active ingredient within antifreeze which sadly is highly toxic to our pets. Cats and dogs may be attracted to its sweet taste but if ingested it can quickly lead to acute kidney failure which can be fatal. It is best to avoid contact and keep in a secured location well away from your pets. If you suspect that your pet could have ingested antifreeze then seek urgent veterinary attention.

We hope this list is helpful in some of the common Christmas dangers. Whilst we have tried to include as many as possible, our pets are always able to surprise us in what they can find. If you are not sure or have concerns about your pet, speak to your vet as soon as possible.

We wish you all a hazard-free holiday period and a Christmas time free of toxins!