What foods should cats and dogs avoid at Christmas?

Davies Veterinary Specialists

Pet Owners

9th December 2021

‘Tis the season to be careful

As a pet owner, you may be looking for guidance on a number of key concerns at Christmas, to make sure it’s a safe and happy time for Christmas pets and, here at Davies, we’ll be sharing all the answers with you throughout December.

Knowing what cats and dogs can and can’t eat or drink is a concern that becomes more focused than ever at Christmas. It’s a time when there will be more temptation, enticing smells and novel tastes to explore.

The first thing to bear in mind at Christmas is that it shouldn’t be a time of tension regarding your pet’s safety; it’s simply a time for a little extra care and attention.

Remember showing that you love and care for your pet can be far more about what you don’t allow your pet to eat, than the treats they receive. The simple watchword is ‘awareness’ and making sure all members of the family and any guests are aware of what is safe for your pet.

For example, it’s a common misapprehension that it is fine to give leftover bones to pets. It’s not. All bones, even big ones, have the potential to cause problems if swallowed. Bones can splinter when chewed and there is the risk that fragments may get stuck in the oesophagus or cause damage to the throat and stomach. Take care when giving your pets any bones. As with all the suggestions below, being extra careful means keeping your pet safe and healthy.

What shouldn’t pets eat?

Top five food types to avoid:

Can cats and dogs eat chocolate?

This is an absolute NO, at any time of year. There is a chemical in chocolate called theobromine. It triggers vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, problems with the heart, and can be fatal. The darker the chocolate, the more severe the effect.

TIP: Don’t put chocolates on or under your Christmas tree (even wrapped up boxes), and never leave them lying around.


Can cats and dogs eat mince pies?

Again, this is a big NO. Grapes, currants, sultanas, and raisins are all poisonous to dogs. For dogs, even the smallest amount of Christmas pudding can cause severe kidney failure. It is unknown if these foods also pose a risk to cats, but it is advisable to avoid them.

TIP: Keep mince pies, Christmas pudding, and any other food with these ingredients well away from your pets.


Can cats and dogs eat macadamia nuts?

These nuts are often found in biscuits and shared as snacks at Christmas time. They can bring on weakness, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. 

TIP: Say no to macadamia nuts for your pets.


Can cats and dogs eat stuffing?

It is best not to feed your pet leftover stuffing, since it often contains onions and/or garlic which are both toxic to dogs and can cause stomach upset.

TIP: Simply don’t feed your pet leftover stuffing.


Can cats and dogs eat cheese?

If your pet has a healthy diet then morsels of cheese as an occasional treat are acceptable, but be aware that some types, such as blue cheese, can produce toxins that cause rapid onset of convulsions in dogs.

TIP: Cheese as a treat only in moderation – but to be avoided if your dog is lactose intolerant.


Two other areas to watch out for are alcohol and sweets.

Of course, nobody would knowingly give their pet alcohol but, if it is within easy reach, your pet might well try a sip. That is when problems arise. Alcohol can cause serious problems for pets, including vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased coordination, and tremors. It can lead to low blood sugar and coma in severe cases. Avoid leaving drinks around or food containing alcohol, such as chocolate liqueurs.

Sweets, chewing gum and some cakes can contain sugar substitutes such as xylitol. Xylitol can induce the release of insulin in dogs, resulting in low blood sugar and even liver damage. Although other artificial sweeteners don’t have such severe effects, they may cause gastrointestinal discomfort or upset so it’s best to become an avid ingredient-checker and avoid giving your pet food containing artificial sweeteners.

For more insights, from one of our medicine clinicians, watch our video: Festive canine advice from Davies.

Linnaeus Veterinary Limited trading as Davies Veterinary Specialists 01582 883950

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