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Keep your pets safe at Christmas

At Christmas, there’s more of a risk from food poisoning to our pets – simply because there are more opportunities for them to eat things they shouldn’t! Robin Hargreaves, Agria’s Senior Veterinary Advisor, shares some excellent advice regarding some danger foods and other unsafe items around the home.
Keep your pets safe at Christmas

Dogs, in particular, are quite likely to help themselves to all that tempting Christmas food – or anything else they like the look of… And with their super-keen sense of smell, your dog can easily tell when there is food around – even if it’s wrapped up under the tree, they will know – and need some strong willpower not to open and eat it all!

Dangerous items to avoid

Robin Hargreaves, Agria’s Senior Veterinary Advisor, shares some excellent advice regarding some danger foods and other unsafe items around the home.


There’s always lots of chocolate around at Christmas time, and, often, it’s left in easy reach of pets. But being careless could have very serious consequences.

 “Chocolate can be very toxic to dogs. It varies how toxic, but the better quality the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Quite simply, if your dog has any chocolate at all, do not take a risk - you’ve got to take it very seriously.”

If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, you must contact your vet immediately.

Mince pies and Christmas cake

These both contain raisins, which come from grapes – which are highly toxic to dogs.

“Eating food that contains grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure in your dog. If you think your dog has eaten anything containing grapes or raisins, you must contact your vet straight away - do not wait until morning or the next day”.


“This has a similar effect on animals as it does on humans, but as pets are much smaller than us, a small quantity can have a serious effect. It is a poison and will make animals very sick, very quickly.”

 Always keep them away – drinks such as cream liqueurs can be especially tempting, so do not take any risks.

Vape/electronic cigarette refills

“These contain very concentrated nicotine, which would be extremely dangerous if your dog were to chew or eat it. This is a relatively unknown, but extremely serious poison, so be very careful, especially if you have visitors that may not be as careful as you are.”

If your pet has consumed any of the above, get in touch with your vet immediately for urgent advice.

Hangover Cures

If you’ve over indulged you may have painkillers laying around. Over the counter human medicine such as ibuprofen can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach ulcers and kidney failure in dogs.

Other tempting Christmas treats...

Is your cat hypnotised by the tree?

Cats are less likely than dogs to eat toxic food, however, their playful natures can cause a few other issues! Cats - and dogs too, will often want to pull decorations off Christmas trees to play with, and will also be tempted by ribbon or paper from presents, which could cause a blockage if swallowed.

Don’t assume your pet will be sensible. Keep wrapping, ribbons, and decorations out of their reach, and if you feel your pet looks ill for any reason, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.

Unsuitable Christmas toys

Your dog might be lucky to get given presents from friends and family, but always make sure if someone gives your pet a toy, it is suitable.

Before giving it to your dog to play with, check that no parts can be torn off or eaten. If a dog eats part of a toy, it may not pass through the dog’s intestine, causing an obstruction – which would need immediate attention from a vet.


Lots of dogs end with upset stomachs at Christmas after being given leftovers. It’s so easy to feel sorry for them as we eat so much lovely food and theirs seems boring in comparison, but as much as we can think it’s a lovely treat for them, they are just not used to it. Be very mindful of how much they are given (not just by you, but by visitors, too) and stick to their normal diet as much as possible. They will feel much better for it.

And remember, just because it’s Christmas and we might like to be lazy, your dog won’t! In fact, with everything more unpredictable than usual, if anything, get them out and about more than you usually would. Your dog’s need for stimulation and exercise doesn’t stop – and who doesn’t love a Christmas walk anyway!

Other less seasonal things to look out for:

Common Toad – this species is found all over Britain and it secretes a coating that is toxic to dogs and cats when ingested.

Slugs and snails – if eaten can transmit Lungworm. Adult lungworms live in the heart and the major blood vessels supplying the lungs of dogs and cats, they can cause potentially serious problems.

Mouse and rat poison – some of these can stop blood clotting internally. Symptoms of this don’t show for a few days so making sure your pet doesn’t encounter these in the first place is very important.

Permethrin – this is an insecticide that is found in dog flea treatments but is highly toxic to cats. Even the correct dose for a very small dog is enough to kill a cat!

Lilies – You may be lucky enough to be given a bunch of lilies at Christmas, but the whole of this plant is toxic to cats, the pollen is particularly dangerous. Some cats brush against the flower then groom themselves, this causes the cat to ingest the pollen and they can quickly show symptoms of kidney failure.

Other food that you may have in the house at Christmas time that you should never feed your pets include: Macadamia nuts, blue cheese, onions or any of the onion family and turkey bones can all have nasty effects.

Christmas vet services

It’s a very good idea to check your vet’s opening hours over the Christmas period, and the details of your emergency out of hours service. There may be different arrangements over Christmas, and even a different location you’d need to get to in a hurry. So, in case you do find yourself with an emergency on your hands, make sure you know the details for Christmas Day.

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