Keeping your pets safe over christmas

Pet safety over Christmas

Christmas is just so much fun.

There are presents, guests, food, fun, family, food, music, did I mention food yet?

But this means there is also more hazards about which can be dangerous for your pets.

Food dangers

Food at Christmas time is often full of fat, and sugar, and there is usually so much around, everyone feels over indulged. We like to share the love, and the food, with our pets at Christmas time, especially because it seems a waste to throw out leftovers, when there is a starving looking dog at our feet.

This is not an exhaustive list of dangerous foods, but are the most commonly found ones  at Christmas time. America has a wonderful pet poison hotline. Unfortunately I haven’t found one like this in Australia. However their website has some useful information on there.


Lots of the traditional Christmas foods have a lot of fat in them. Ham and turkey especially. Often people cut off the fat from the ham, and give these scraps to the family dog. And boy does the dog love it!

Until they start to feel sick! Too much fat can increase the risk of pancreatitis, and this is a very serious condition.

Lots of dogs can handle a high amount of fat in their diet, and some can live on a really high fat diet. However, some dogs need a really low fat diet, and can really be affected by too much fat, especially if they are exposed to much more fat than they would usually have in their everyday diet.

If you want to give your dog some of the fat, just make sure it is a sensible portion size. Just a little tit bit. Not a big bowl of ham fat for their meal.

Turkey and chicken skin is also very high in fat. Keep these to sensible portion sizes too.

Cooked bones

Cooked bones are dangerous. They can cause impactions and they can splinter and can cause perforations in the bowel.

Don’t feed cooked bones.

I know I say this in most posts, but I still come across those that are still feeding cooked bones.

Don’t do it. Pop them in the bin instead.

Ham bones are cooked bones. Don’t feed them either.

Its also really important to make sure these bones and fat scraps are kept out of reach. Even the most well behaved dog can sneak something off an unattended kitchen bench, or table.


With more and more people becoming aware of how unhealthy sugar is, many people are reducing their sugar intake. Come Christmas, sweet recipes may be replicated with sugar alternatives.

Xylitol is one common sweetener used as a sugar substitute.

This is deadly to dogs, and they really don’t need much to be affected.  Its not thought to affect cats in the same way, but still best to avoid for cats.

If you are using sugar alternatives, or if a guest brings a food along, always check the ingredients, and make sure your dog doesn’t get any of this as a treat. Keep this well away from them.

And if they do get into some. ring your emergency vet immediately. I am serious.


It is actually not clearly understood just how sultanas and raisins cause poisoning, but they can. They can cause kidney failure in cats and dogs.

So no Christmas cake for your pets


Avocado flesh, skins, and leaves are so terribly toxic. They contain a chemical known as persin in them. I had a goat drop dead from heart failure after eating some avocado seedlings. Keep avocado out of reach for your pets.


Chocolate contains a chemical known as theobromine- and the darker the chocolate, the more of this it has in it. This is toxic and can cause liver failure in dogs and cats. A safer alternative for dogs and cats is carob.

Bread dough

Although not many of us make our own bread like we used to, It can still be found in the christmas kitchen. When uncooked bread dough is eaten by a dog or cat, They yeast can continue to cause swelling of the dough, which can cause bloating and pressure in the bowels.


Dogs and cats are lactose intolerant. they do not produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose sugar found in dairy products. This can cause upset tummies, diarrohea and malabsorption.


onions are a sly food that can sneak into a dog or cats diet in small amounts as an ingredient in other foods. In small amounts, it is not so dangerous, however, if a dog or cat eats a lot of onion, it can cause damage to the red blood cells, and anaemia. It can reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Although garlic is stronger than onions in the levels of thiosulfate, the amount of onions eaten in one sitting is often much greater. It is easy for a dog to eat a full plate of fried onion, especially when it is cooked along with meat on the BBQ, and mixed with sausage and steak fat.

Cats are a lot less likely to eat onion, however some hungry cats, like Garfield, are at risk.

Macadamia nuts

This is another one of the ‘the exact mechanism of toxicity is unknown”, but its known they are toxic, so avoid.

Corn cobs

What is yummier than a corn on the cob, lathered in butter and salt and pepper? Maybe the left over cob, to your dog.

corn cobs are really appealing, but can cause blockages and impactions in the bowel. They are not digested, and can be really hard to pass.

Cooking equipment

this probably seems like a silly thing to add to the list. But its more of a hazard than expected.

When we cook, we use things in the cooking process that we know to remove before eating, but a dog isnt going to stop and wonder if this deliciously chicken smelling food is chicken, or just the string that was used to truss the chicken. The string, the aluminium foil used on the legs to prevent burning. they wooden skewers used for the kebabs. the aluminium patty cases. They all smell delicious, and taste even better, but they can cause all kinds of internal damage.

These things are all often left sitting around the place after a party by party guests. especially kids, or inebriated adults. Plates full of delisious, yet indigestible bits.

If you cant make sure they are all in the bin, keep your pets away from the area until it is cleaned up.


Even foods that are safe for dogs and cats to eat can cause gastrointestinal upsets if they are not used to them.

If your dog or cat is used to kibble, and you give them a huge meal of something else, you may end up with a mess of diarrohea. You can give them treats of safe foods, but make sure not to over do it.

Christmas baubles and tinsel

Christmas decorations are so wonderful, but they can also be really dangerous if they are chewed, and swallowed. Cats do not tend to chew and swallow plastic decorations.

They might strip your tree of all decorations, and knock said tree over, and burn the house down from shorting Christmas lights, but they are unlikely to chew and eat them.

Dogs on the other hand, will chew and swallow all kinds things. Plastic bits can get stuck in their bowel, and cause an impaction, and they can also have toxic chemicals in them.

Chewed Christmas lights are also very dangerous.

A fence around the tree can be enough for preventing your dog from getting in and attacking the tree, however a cat is not going to be so easily put off.

A special cat tree may be needed.

For extreme situations, buy a pet crate, and put the tree in there.

The heat

In Australia, Christmas is hot and sweaty. Its about escaping the heat, and who can get closer to the air conditioner or fan.

Do not take your pet in the car, even just to duck down the street for a few ingredients you have forgotten.

The shops are busy, and cars get hot really quick.

We can loose the sense of urgency of getting back to the hot car when we step into an air conditioned shop.

We can also come across the slowest checkout operator, or find the lines are 10 deep or the eftpos lines have gone down. Or you bump into someone who is incredibly difficult to get away from because they can TALK!

Its not worth it. leave them at home while you duck out.

I have a blog post you can read about how to keep your pets cool over the summer.



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