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The Christmas dangers that could put your pet at risk

From lethal leftovers to calamitous crackers, the festive season can be a dangerous time for our beloved pets. Luckily, Dr Scott is on hand to guide us through the best ways to keep our pets happy, healthy and safe this Christmas.


CHOCOLATE: Although chocolate is a tempting treat for humans, it contains an ingredient called theobromine that is dangerous to your pet's health. If a dog eats chocolate, they are at risk of developing problems with their kidneys, central nervous system and heart. So, make sure you keep your advent calendars and edible tree decorations out of their reach.

MINCE PIES, XMAS PUDDING AND CAKE: Currants, raisins and sultanas as well as figs and dates are toxic to dogs, so skip your pets when dishing out dessert.

GRAVY, STUFFING AND SAUSAGES: These likely contain garlic, chives or onion, all of which are harmful to cats and poisonous to dogs.

BONES: Cooked bones can splinter or lodge in your pet’s throat or cause serious internal damage if swallowed. Large fragments can cause obstructions in the bowel and stomach. Smaller splinters can cause gut irritation and/or perforation. Ensure all carcasses / cooked bones are placed in a sealed bin or food waste store away from the reach of your pets.

NUTS: While not all nuts are toxic to dogs, they can cause nasty symptoms if eaten. Large nuts such as walnuts are at risk of causing gastric obstruction if swallowed whole (Dr Scott once had to remove a walnut from inside a Labrador). Almonds, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts are all tasty to dogs, however they can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and carry the risk of gastric obstruction or perforation if swallowed whole. 

CHEESES: Although there’s rarely room for food after dessert, a cheese course is often a popular addition to the Christmas smorgasbord - but not for your furry friends. Pets should leave dairy alone as most are lactose intolerant - and be extra careful if you’ve got a wedge of Stinking Bishop on the plate - dogs are extremely sensitive to Roquefortine C, a chemical contained within blue cheese.


  • Turkey meat (no skin or bones)

  • Salmon (fillets or cooked in spring water are preferable to smoked salmon)

  • Lamb meat (no bones)

  • Scrambled egg

  • Green beans, Brussel sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots, Peas, Swede

  • Mashed potato (best without additional butter), new potatoes, sweet potatoes

  • Yoghurt (Check the ingredients and don’t feed if Xylitol is listed)


CHRISTMAS TREES: Christmas tree needles can get stuck in paws or in mouths if chewed - and will cause a lot of discomfort externally and internally if ingested, so sweep or vacuum up any needles that drop off. Watch out for your cat climbing the Christmas tree – they may become tangled or cause the tree to topple over. Once the tree goes up make sure it holds strong and sturdy. Ensure your tree is stable by investing in a sturdy base. "Use a circuit breaker for all Christmas lights, especially those that trail behind the tree, to prevent your pet from getting an electric shock while investigating your bright, festive lights. Also, electric cables probably look like a tempting chewy snake to playful eyes but can have fatal consequences so turn off your tree lights at the plug when they’re not in use or if left unsupervised."

TINSEL: Keep tinsel away from pets. If your pet eats tinsel it can cause a blockage in their stomach. Cats especially like playing with tinsel and are at risk of intestinal blockages. 

BAUBLES / ORNAMENTS: They dangle, swing like a toy and bounce, making them very tempting to play with. But be wary -  glass baubles and holly can cause cuts. Choose alternative tree decorations instead of glass if they’re going to be in reach of your pet. Going for salt-dough alternatives may not be the answer either. The mix of flour and salt with water can cause sat toxicosis (salt poisoning) - which can be fatal for pets.

PLANTS: Also avoid poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe and lilies which are toxic to cats and dogs. 

CRACKERS: Bone-shaped, cardboard, paper and plastic toys are all the things our pets love to gnaw on, but all of these materials carry a health risk if eaten by cats or dogs. What’s more, the loud noises caused by cracker pulling can also scare your pet.

WRAPPING PAPER AND RIBBON: Once the presents are opened, try to keep your home clear of wrapping and ribbon. It’s such an easy target for pets to play with and chew on but it is also hazardous, causing obstructions if eaten.


COLD WEATHER: "When walking your dog in the cold weather, be careful of the cold ground on their paws. Avoid travelling over frosty grass and watch out for salt grit, which can cause contact dermatitis. Wash your dog’s feet after a walk in the snow with baby wipes or a wet towel. Wrap up short haired dogs, (plus those that are young or old), with nice warm jackets if you are venturing outside in cold weather."

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