It’s a magical time of year and we all like to include our pets in Christmas celebrations. Make sure your pet doesn’t overdo the festivities this Christmas, though, or at least help them to indulge safely. With all the festive foods, presents, decorations and increased visitations, Christmas time can mean many hazards for cats and dogs. As you prepare to have a very merry Christmas, keep one eye on your pet’s safety and avoid an unwanted trip to the vets – here is our guide to help you out.

Poisonous foods

One cat and dog-dangerous substance that is around in abundance at Christmas time is raisins. Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies, they are too tempting to resist. But raisins (and grapes) can be toxic to the kidneys of cats and dogs and can make your pet extremely unwell. If you so much as suspect your pet to have consumed even small amounts, get veterinary advice as soon as possible because the sooner your pet is treated, the better the outcome is likely to be. Keep Christmas dinner a human-only indulgence.

Onions, garlic and other foods commonly found in a Christmas feast are also poisonous to some pets. What’s more, the high fat content of Christmas dinner can pay havoc with a cat or dog’s pancreas. Pancreatitis is a painful condition which can occur acutely in response to ingestion of too much fat. Hospitalisation of the pet is the usual course of action, which can really put a downer on festive frivolity.

Whilst we hope you are all spoiled with other sweet treats at Christmas, just be aware of products which contain the sweetener Xylitol. A now relatively common ingredient of commercially-created foods, this one causes weakness, vomiting, unsteadiness on the feet and seizures in dogs. Poisonings from Xylitol can be fatal as, even if they survive the blood-sugar chaos, they may develop liver failure.

Choking and other ingestion hazards

What is it about the array of nuts that we all display at Christmas time? Does anyone actually eat them? Be they decoration only, or for eating, it’s best to ensure that your cats and dogs don’t partake. Some are toxic and many are just the right size for pets to choke on.

Children’s toys also pose a threat to pets. Often they are brightly coloured, new and interesting textures and may make intriguing noises. They may be child-safe but, due to the nature of pets and their far more effective teeth, small parts can be a choking risk. One way to avoid the trauma of a choking pet, is to give them a new toy too. Keep everyone entertained with their own species-specific toys and relax knowing everyone is safe.


Do you hang chocolates on your tree? If so, they must be out of reach of cats and dogs. It is also worth asking anyone who gives you a present if there is anything edible before placing it beneath your tree. Should a cat or dog get their paws on chocolate and eat it, diarrhoea, vomiting, tremors and seizures can result. A severe poisoning can even be fatal.

Baubles are also tree decorations that can cause pets a great deal of bother. Playing with and swallowing small baubles may cause choking or an obstruction in the gut. Breaking glass (or even plastic) baubles can cause deep cuts. Tinsel and present string poses an unusual and potentially life-threatening problem to some pets, especially cats. Cats are more prone to ‘linear foreign bodies’ in the gastrointestinal tract which sometimes requires life-saving surgery. Dogs too should be prevented from playing with these things as well as wrapping paper in case they accidentally ingest them.

All in all, if your pet can’t control themselves around decorations, keeping them up high or placing a barrier around the tree can help keep them safe.

But what is life if you can’t enjoy a treat or two (or three or four) at Christmas time? We know you’ll all want to spoil your pets at this time of year. Carrots, apple slices, and cooked chicken are all foods that your dog might enjoy, and cats can have cooked chicken, cooked white fish, cucumber and asparagus for a bit of interest. Just ensure they are offered only in moderation so as not to cause stomach upset.

Please remember that if your pet eats something they shouldn’t, or if they hurt themselves in any way over the festive period (or any time of year for that matter), seeking veterinary advice as soon as possible can prevent serious illness. We wish you all a safe and happy Christmas!