It’s that time of year to watch out for Christmas hazards for your pet.

19 December 2022


While Christmas is an exciting time for all of us, it’s important to remember that there are a number of hazards for your pets with new and different things around the house they will be interested in.

These are potential toxins to your pet and can usually be dealt with simply at your local veterinary practice but sometimes your pet will need to be referred to us to be treated by a Specialist.

These hazards include: Macadamia nuts; grapes and raisins; chocolate; alcohol; Anti-freeze; Christmas trees; Christmas plants such as mistletoe; Pot pourri; onions and garlic in stuffing; turkey bones, tinsel, batteries, candles, lights; baubles; wrapping paper and ribbons.

The signs that they may have ingested something they shouldn’t have include: vomiting; diarrhoea; collapsing; fitting; pawing at their stomachs; irritation to their skin or just generally being quieter and not themselves.

Macadamia nuts

You wouldn’t expect these tasty nuts to cause so many problems, however they can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, wobbliness, tremors and a high temperature in your pet.

Usually this is easy to treat by making the dog sick and giving medications like charcoal to absorb toxins, but it can be more of a problem if they have also been eaten with chocolate, grapes or raisins.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins can be really dangerous to dogs and cats. They can cause kidney failure which can be very serious. If it is spotted early, and treatment is given quickly, it can be very successful. Try to avoid these as much as possible and see your vet if you have any concerns. Why grapes are so poisonous to dogs is unclear and at Christmas the raisins and sultanas in our Christmas pudding and mince pies will carry the same risk, essentially packing the same number of grapes into a much smaller portion of food.

Turkey bones

Bones can cause a number of problems; not only from the point of view of larger pieces getting stuck and causing obstruction, but small bones (especially poultry) can easily splinter into sharp pieces leading to irritation and difficulty in passing the pieces, or in the worst case perforation of the bowel.


Chocolate contains cocoa with theobromine which is poisonous to dogs. Theobromine is a stimulant (similar to caffeine) and the amount varies depending on the type of chocolate.

Signs of toxicity can occur from 4-24 hours after ingestion and include vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness at low doses, but more serious signs of increased heart and respiratory rates, uncoordinated movement and fits or seizures; if left untreated this can be fatal.

Dark chocolate is worse than milk or white chocolate as it has a higher cocoa content. If you can provide information about the type of chocolate and the amount eaten it is very useful for your vet. They can be given anti-arrhythmic or anti epileptic medications


Alcohol ingestion can cause weakness or wobbliness, and even uncooked bread dough will have the same effect. Your pet vomiting can help if it is within 15 minutes, but the absorption of alcohol is fast. They usually recover well unless they have a reaction of their central nervous, respiratory or metabolic systems.

Christmas trees and plants

These are new indoors where your pets aren’t used to them and can cause a mild gastrointestinal upset. It can really help your vet if you can identify the plant they ingested and know if there could be any chemical product on it.

Christmas trees whether they are firs, pines, cypresses, spruces or cedars have sharp tips that can cause internal damage if swallowed. Cats and kittens may also try to climb the tree and glass baubles can easily break and create sharp shards.

Also, Holly berries and Ivy can cause a stomach upset and Ivy can cause irritation to their skin with prolonged contact. Lilies are poisonous to cats, as is the water they are placed in. Mistletoe can cause drooling, retching and vomiting and Poinsettia can cause irritation to their mouth and stomach, overproduction of saliva and sometimes vomiting.

If you believe that you pet has eaten something that will harm them, please contact your veterinary surgeon immediately.