Christmas Dangers for Dogs

Trent Webb

Christmas is a great time for dogs and dog owners. You get more time to spend with them and just every now and again there is a chance for that classic snowy walk. But there are some hidden dangers, so it pays to consider these before the party gets into full swing. Read some of the biggest Christmas dangers for dogs here…

First and foremost if your dog eats anything you’re not sure about – or suddenly looks ill – call the vet! It may be Christmas but there will be an ‘out of hours’ service. Do not wait for the surgery to re-open on Thursday, as a delay can lead to more or deadly damage. In order to save a panicky Google search or shifting through the post, add your vet’s number to your mobile address book today – while it is all calm and you’re not stressed!

Frightening festive foods

We all know that sprouts, Yule log and alcohol all have a detrimental effect on human physiology. But there are some very specific Christmas dangers for dogs in what we would consider tasty festive favourites.

Ferrero Rover

Chocolate is the best-known dog danger over Christmas – especially if you’ve got kids who insist on leaving their selection boxes on the floor. Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to canines. The darker the chocolate the greater the concentration of theobromine. Small amounts can cause agitation, convulsions and hyperactivity; larger amounts can quite simply be fatal. So try to avoid dog height chocolate tree ornaments where it can taunt even the best behaved and take great care to place any chocolate products well out of reach.

Over many years the most common problems I have been called out to see over the Christmas period were digestive upsets from eating too much unfamiliar rich food. So just feed your dog as normal with the odd (boneless) turkey or vegetable titbit as a treat - they’ll still love you just as much!!
John Campbell, Head Vet of Pet Drugs Online

Dead fruit flies

Grapes and their dried friends (currants, sultanas and raisins) are highly toxic to dogs and can cause renal failure. At any normal time we wouldn’t have too many of these lying around the house. At Christmas there will be mince pies and Christmas pudding – both of which are literally crammed full of the currants, sultanas and raisins. If they eat any, call your vet.

Going onion, and on…

The Allium family. These aren’t those nice people from number six, but the onion family (onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and even chives). If eaten by dogs these can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Simultaneously, but often unnoticed, they can also destroy red blood cells. Eventually, this can cause anaemia.

Not so sweet

Xylitol, the artificial sweetener, has been blamed for everything from ADHD through to the Kennedy assassination. One thing we know is true, is that xylitol is poisonous to dogs, especially smaller ones. In dogs, it can cause the sudden release of insulin and cause liver damage. So watch out for chewing gum and sugar free sweets.

Decos, wrapping & packaging

The tree, its decorations and presents underneath look great but they can present some hazards to curious dogs – especially if you’ve got a ‘Hoover’ that’ll eat-anything breed!

The new smells, tastes and textures of Christmas can lead even the best behaved dog astray

Holly & the Ivy

Festive plants present a unique seasonal hazard. Holly is mildly toxic, but the leaves are spiky and the berries upset the tum. Mistletoe from Europe is only mildly toxic but the US variety is far more dangerous. So just assume it is the US version and keep it well out the dog’s way. Christmas tree needles will upset the stomach but their real danger is the fact they are sharp and can cause internal damage. Assuming that your wreath isn’t made from poison ivy (which would be just asking for trouble) it can irritate a dog’s skin – so keep your wreaths up.

A load of crepe

Beware of wrapping and crepe-style paper. A scrap here or there won’t really hurt, but rolled up balls or a concerted feast will. The glitters, tapes and glues may be toxic, while the paper won’t breakdown and could easily cause a blockage. Sort of like the fat-bergs so popular on the news in 2018. Only worse.

Staying dry

Silica gel is the little sachets are hidden in the packaging of everything from fashion items to electronics. Typically, they spill out on the floor as presents are excitedly opened. While low in toxicity they are moisture absorbers and really won’t do the dog much good.

Christmas Balls

Tree decorations are often fragile and spiky. If chewed they can cut the mouth. If swallowed these can cause an obstruction, or worse a perforation.

Four candles

Candles. Stating the obvious, don’t let dogs eat candles. Although, the most probable risk is a fire being caused by an excited tail. Keep candles up high and never mix unattended pets with lit candles.

What is potpourri?

Potpourri is a classic “can’t think what to get Aunt Maude” gift. It also often comes in a bowl and so from a dog’s perspective is begging to be eaten. If consumed, it can irritate the stomach and GI tract. If you thought receiving it as a gift was bad. Try three days of fretting over a poorly dog and then cleaning up the mess on the exit!

Butt out

You may not smoke but guests may and nicotine is toxic to dogs. Considerate smoking guests may well go into the garden, but make sure they do not leave butts on the floor for the dog to eat. Equally, make sure that nicotine replacement products, especially patches, are kept well out of dogs reach and disposed of carefully.

Don’t spend the whole Christmas fretting, have a nice time, but do keep an eye out for the dog. You know what they’re like!

This Christmas Dangers for Dogs post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!