Christmas is the time to have fun, celebrate and indulge ourselves a little. As members  of the family our pets often get to indulge a little bit too.

But the Christmas season carries a whole host of dangers to our pets, from toxic foods to dangerous seasonal plants.

Dangerous food and drink

Chocolate – Chocolate contains a drug called theobromine, which comes from the same class of drugs as caffeine and is toxic to dogs. Even very small amounts of chocolate can cause clinical signs which include vomiting, drooling, convulsions, hyperexcitability, ataxia ( appearing wobbly on their feet), drinking lots and problems with the heart. The darker the chocolate the greater the amount of theobromine it contains, and the more likely it is to cause a problem. Even small amounts of chocolate have the potential to make your dog very sick, so we would advise you to contact your vet or their out-of-hours provider for advice if your dog eats chocolate.

To help reduce the risk of your dog eating chocolate during the festive period avoid putting it on or under the christmas tree as the temptation might be too great for our four legged friends.

Grapes and dried vine fruits ( currants, sultanas, raisins) – Grapes and their dried products are toxic to dogs. Ingestion of the dried fruit, rather than grapes, is more likely to cause severe clinical effects which include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, blood in the faeces, anorexia, dullness and kidney failure. The toxic mechanism is unknown at this stage and there appears to be no correlation between the quantity ingested and clinical effects. As such we strongly recommend that any dog which has ingested grapes, or their dried products, is seen by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible after ingestion.

Onions (and shallots, leeks, garlic, chives) – Onions, shallots, leeks, garlic and chives belong to the allium family and are toxic to dogs. Ingestion of these plants, or ingestion of food containing these plants can cause anorexia, vomiting, diarrhoea, a sore abdomen and anaemia. If your dog does ingest any of these plants we advise that you contact Westport Vets.

Artificial sweeteners – An artificial sweetener called xylitol can be found in the sweets and cakes we consume over the christmas period as well as chewing gum, mouth washes, toothpaste and some supplements. Xylitol ingestion causes an insulin release in dogs leading to a low blood sugar. It can also cause liver failure. Clinical signs are vomiting, ataxia, drowsiness, seizures, coma and collapse. If your dog has ingested a product containing xylitol we advise you to contact Westport Vets.

Macadamia nuts – The method of toxicity to dogs is unknown. Clinical signs include weakness and ataxia, a sore abdomen, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, lameness and collapse.

Leftovers – Many of the foods we eat over the festive period are toxic to our pets, so take care to dispose of it well and keep it out of reach. Not only do many of the foods we eat contain ingredients which are toxic to dogs, mould in leftovers can cause muscle tremors, vomiting, panting and seizures. Also bones from the turkey carcass can become lodged in the stomach or intestines requiring emergency surgery.

Alcohol – Alcohol can be dangerous to your pet if consumed to excess. Some clinical signs of alcohol consumption are vomiting, diarrhoea, agitation, dullness, ataxia and vocalisation. Ensure that any unattended alcohol is kept out of reach of your pets to prevent them from helping themselves.


Poisonous Christmas plants

Lilies – Lilies are extremely toxic to cats. All parts of the plant are toxic and cause kidney failure. Commonly cats will ingest lily pollen whilst grooming, so if you do have both cats and lilies in the house keep the lily plants out of reach of the cats and trim the stamens to remove all the pollen from the plants. If you think your cat may have ingested lily pollen, or parts of the lily plant contact your vet immediately.

Poinsettia – Severe cases of poisoning are rarely reported in our pets. Effects of ingestion are normally rapid in onset and self limiting. Common signs are hypersalivation , vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and depression.

Mistletoe – Ingestion of European mistletoe can cause your pet to have vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and to be weak. If massive quantities have been ingested we advise you contact Westport Vets.

Holly –  Severe poisoning following holly ingestion in dogs is rare. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and depression. If your dog is very unwell following holly ingestion we advise that you contact Westport Vets.

Ivy – All parts of the ivy plant are toxic, particularly the leaves and fruits. Ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and a sore abdomen. If the plant has been in contact with the skin it can cause the skin to become red and sore.



Other hazards

Grit / rock salt – Grit can cause pain or irritation to your dog’s paws. It also contains a high salt content which is hazardous to pets if they ingest it. Ingestion of grit can cause the following clinical signs – vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, drinking lots of water, ataxia, seizures, coma and death in severe cases. We advise that you either thoroughly wash and dry your dog’s paws after they have been in contact with grit on the pavements, or get boots for your dog to wear. If your pet shows any clinical signs of grit / rock salt ingestion then you should contact Westport Vets immediately.

Antifreeze – Antifreeze is widely used in screen washes, brake fluid, inks and as a coolant. It is extremely toxic to our pets, and can lead to kidney failure if not treated early. Clinical signs are ataxia, vomiting, dullness, drinking more, weakness and collapse. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze contact your vet immediately. It is recommended that all antifreeze is kept out of reach of your pets and any spillages are cleaned up promptly.

Potpourri – Pot pourri ingestion in dogs can result in significant, prolonged gastrointestinal signs including vomiting, diarrhoea, anorexia, sore abdomen and lethargy. WE advise that pot pourri is kept out of reach of dogs and If your dog has ingested pot pourri that you contact Westport Vets.

Tinsel  – What looks like a shiny toy to your pet can become deadly when ingested. Whilst tinsel in itself is not poisonous when ingested it can cause a linear foreign body when eaten resulting in severe potentially life threatening damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Our advice is if you own a pet toss the tinsel.