Orchard Vet's Blog

Christmas hazards


For most of us Christmas is a busy, even chaotic time. Food and presents are often left unattended. Curious pets, especially dogs, may investigate and eat gifts left under the tree (and not just edible ones!), food in the kitchen or offered as treats from the table, or chew on unusual plants introduced as seasonal decorations.
Christmas can be a strange time for our pets. Their normal environment is filled with trees, flowers and decorations, and there may be odd noises such as Christmas crackers and fireworks. Also, your routine is likely to change and there may be unfamiliar visitors coming to the house.


Resist the temptation to give your pets chocolate - it contains properties that are toxic to both cats and dogs and can cause agitation, hyperactivity, tremors, nervous convulsions and heart problems. Dogs won’t bother unwrapping treats left under the tree, and wrappers can cause an obstruction in the gut.
Turkey bones can cause choking, constipation and damage to the intestines. Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives are all typical ingredients in stuffing. They can cause toxicity even when cooked, leading to vomiting, diarrhoea and anaemia.
Grapes are toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure; this includes their dried fruit products, sultanas, currants and raisins, which are found in Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies.
Dogs may help themselves to unattended alcohol, which is as harmful to pets as to their owners!


Plastic trees and decorations are of low toxicity but can cause can cause an obstruction if chewed. Pine needles can get stuck in paws, causing irritation as well as potential perforation of the intestines if eaten. Glass decorations such as baubles can splinter if chewed or smash into shards. Keep decorations and electrical wires out of reach.

Ingestion of batteries is more common this time of year. Batteries can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning if chewed and pierced, if swallowed whole they may cause an obstruction in the gut.

Antifreeze, if ingested, is very dangerous. It is sweet to taste and quite palatable for pets. Even a small amount can cause serious kidney damage and can be fatal. Consider washing your pet’s paws after going outside to remove any trace of antifreeze.§