We all love our festive foods and yet so much of our Christmas Fayre can cause problems for our pets. Whilst some may just cause a minor funny tummy, others can have serious health consequences if eaten by our furry friends.
1. Christmas cake, mince pies, and Christmas pudding are a feature in many homes at this time of year. Just be sure to keep them away from your four-legged friends as they often contain raisins and sultanas which can be extremely poisonous to dogs, with even tiny amounts causing life-threatening kidney failure in some cases.
2. Christmas is a time for dips and relishes many of which contain garlic, onion, leeks, and chives. These all belong to the Allium family all of which can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Other Allium containing culprits you might not suspect include stuffing, gravy, crisps, takeaway dishes, soups, and sauces. If ingested by our pets, these pungent plants can potentially lead to life-threatening destruction of red blood cells.
3. Chocolate is a staple of many households at Christmas yet is potentially extremely toxic for dogs. The darker the chocolate the higher the risk, but we also need to consider amount ingested and relative size of the dog. If your dog has eaten ANY chocolate, call your vet ASAP so they can carry out toxicity calculations to determine potential risk to your dog.
4. Christmas is a time for sweet treats and baked goodies but with many of us concerned about the extra calories we often turn to low-calorie alternatives. Many diet foods and sugar-free sweets contain an artificial sweetener known as Xylitol which is incredibly toxic to our pets; even small amounts eaten by dogs can sadly lead to life-threatening seizures and liver failure. Xylitol can be found in many low-calorie sweets, cakes, pastries, jams, fruit juices, and even in peanut butter.
5. Bowls of nuts are another common Christmas feature in many households but beware of be sure to keep these away from our pets. Macadamia nuts can cause significant toxicity in pets (mechanism unknown) resulting in neurological signs, tremors, and dangerous elevations in body temperature. Whilst fruit and nut mixes often contain raisins which, as mentioned previously, are potentially very toxic to dogs. Even non-toxic nuts can trigger a painful and dangerous inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis, often triggered by the high fat content.
6. If you happen to be a keen baker of bread, just be wary of letting your fur-covered family member near any resting dough. Once ingested, the yeast in raw dough continues fermenting causing severe tummy troubles as the dough swells and gas continues to be produced.
7. Alcohol is often more abundant over the festive period and whilst dogs and cats are drawn by the sweet taste of a Christmas tipple, they are far more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than humans, with even small amounts causing dangerous toxic effects in our four-legged family members.
8. Christmas is a time when many families cook meat joints on-the-bone and want to know if they can share with their pets. Whilst certain types of raw bones in moderation, and fed under supervision, can be acceptable for dogs, cooked and poultry bones can be very dangerous. Cooked bones splinter easily causing mouth and gut injuries, knuckle bones if swallowed whole can stick in the throat causing airway obstruction, and turkey/chicken bones can cause choking or even penetrate the gut wall. Injuries in dogs caused by bones are very common and sadly are all too often life-threatening.
9. The festive period is a time for rich foods and a little overindulgence. Just be aware that foods with a high fat content (fatty meats, sausages, cheese, fried foods etc) can trigger a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas (known as pancreatitis) when ingested by our four-legged friends. To be on the safe side don’t feed your pets anything out of the norm and avoid feeding any treats with a higher fat content than they are used to.
10. Cheese boards and cream-filled desserts abound during the festive season but keep your furry friend away from the dairy treats. Many cats and dogs become lactose intolerant once they reach adulthood, thanks to a decline in the level of enzymes responsible for digesting milk. Eating dairy without these enzymes present can leave your pet feeling extremely uncomfortable and their poop resembling eggnog.
11. Avocado is a staple in some households all year round, but for others it makes an appearance disguised in festive guacamole dips. Whilst good for humans, Avocados contain a substance called persin which can be extremely toxic to some animals, additionally the stones can cause gut blockages, and the high fat content can be a trigger for pancreatitis. Overall, it’s best to avoid your pet ingesting this green ‘Grinch’ of a fruit.
12. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a heap of roast potatoes and whilst cooked potato in moderation is often included in pet diets, potato skins and raw green potatoes can be extremely dangerous to our pets. Largely due to solanine which can cause severe gastrointestinal upset and, if large enough amounts are eaten, can cause toxicity.
To keep your pet safe this Christmas make sure all potentially hazardous treats are kept in pet proof containers and off low tables.
Have a chat with younger children so they know not to feed their food to pets. If you have children that are too young to understand or may be prone to dropping food on the floor, then make sure dogs and cats are kept out the room until children have finished eating where possible. This is especially important if children are eating foods that are potentially toxic to pets.
If you are hosting a dinner party, then ensure all guests are made aware that pets are not to be fed any of the bountiful banquet you are serving up.
To safely include your pet in the food festivities we advise having some healthy dog-safe treats to hand. These can be given to children and visitors to feed to your pet. Stick to treats that you know your dog can handle and always feed in moderation.
If your cat or dog does manage to get their paws on any of the above-mentioned foods then call your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible for further advice. We hope, however, that by following our festive tips that you, your pets, and your vet, will have a very merry (and safe) Christmas and New Year.
From our family to yours,
The Oralade Team