Keeping Christmas Merry and Bright for Everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we like to treat all of our family including our family dogs. Along with the treats and presents are added dangers for Fido that everyone should avoid. Some of these hidden dangers may be delectable or beautiful for us but could be deadly for the dog.

Dangerous Food and Drinks

Chocolate: Everyone knows that chocolate is bad for dogs but do you know why? There is a chemical called theobromine in chocolate that acts a bit like caffeine and is very toxic to dogs. Small amounts of theobromine can cause agitation hyper-excitability, tremors, convulsions and other heart-related problems. The darker the chocolate, the more potent the chemical becomes with baker’s chocolate being the most dangerous.

chocolateSmall amounts of chocolate can make your pup feel sick but if your dog ingests more than 20 mg/kg of theobromine, the equivalent of 3.5 g/kg of plain or dark chocolate or 14 g/kg of milk chocolate, you need to take Fido to the vet. White chocolate, however, does not contain enough theobromine to cause toxicity but it can be fatty which can pose a risk for pancreatitis. At the end of the day, avoid leaving chocolate out whether under the Christmas tree or in a stocking because the temptation might be too great!

Dried fruits/raisins: No Christmas is complete without a dried fruit platter, mince pie or fruitcake but the grapes and dried vine fruits like raisins or currents are extremely toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure even if a small amount is ingested.

Onions (and garlic, leeks, shallots and chives): Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the Allium species of plants and can cause toxicity, whether uncooked or cooked. Initially there can be vomiting and diarrhea but the main effect is damage to red blood cells, resulting in anemia. This may not be apparent for several days after ingestion.

Alcohol: Alcohol can have a similar effect in dogs as it does in their owners when drunk in excess. They can become wobbly and drowsy and in severe cases, there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma. Dogs may help themselves to any unattended alcohol left lying around over Christmas, so ensure it’s always out of their reach.

Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness in dogs.

Leftovers: If there is any food left over at Christmas, be careful to dispose of it well and keep it out of the reach of your four-legged friend. Not only may the food include ingredients toxic to dogs, mold in leftovers (including yogurt, bread and cheese) can produce toxins that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.

Artificial sweeteners: A sugar-free sweetener called xylitol is often found in the sweets we consume over Christmas, as well as chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpastes and supplements. It is poisonous to dogs and, although the amounts in different products vary, even one to two pieces of chewing gum can cause toxic effects in a small dog. It can induce the release of insulin in the body, resulting in low blood sugar and sometimes liver damage. Signs of poisoning can be rapid or delayed, and include vomiting, lethargy, convulsions and comas. The prognosis is good if the low blood sugar is treated quickly.

Dangerous Christmas plants

Poinsettia: Although toxicity of the poinsettia has often been exaggerated, it can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach with overproduction of saliva and sometimes vomiting.

Holly: The plant is considered to be of low toxicity, but ingestion of holly berries may result in a stomach upset.

mistletoeMistletoe: Evidently there is a European species and an American species of this plant. The European variety is Viscum album and the common mistletoe in the US is Phoradendron serotinum. They have different toxic ingredients but both can do harm.The European variety of mistletoe has oval leaves and small clumps of 2-5 white berries. The US variety has oval leaves but the plant is shorter and denser and the white berries usually form in clumps of 10 or more. Common reactions are a bellyache, diarrhea and quickened pulse although death is definitely a possibility. The leaves are the worst but the mistletoe berries are poisonous too. Unless your pet has ingested a lot he should be fine but don’t take this lightly because in large doses it can really be a problem. Go see a veterinarian no matter how much you think your pet has eaten.


Christmas trees: A mild stomach upset can be caused if dogs eat pine needles, but the sharp tips can cause more damage internally.

Ivy: The ivy that tends to be used in wreaths and decorations is Hedera helix, which can cause an upset tummy when ingested. Where there is significant or prolonged skin contact, Hedera species can also cause both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Other hazards

Silica gel: Silica gel comes in small sachets and is often found in the packaging of new shoes, handbags, cameras or electrical equipment, which we unwrap over Christmas. Although it is labelled “Do not Eat” it is considered to be of low toxicity.

Christmas decorations: Decorations made of plastic, paper or foil are of low toxicity although may obstruct the stomach. Glass decorations could pose a risk if chewed or swallowed.

Wrapping or crepe paper: Ingestion may cause staining in the mouth, which may look alarming, but the toxicity is considered to be low. But if your dog eats a large amount, it may cause an obstruction to the stomach.

Candles: Although candles, even scented ones, are considered to be of low toxicity, ingestion could potentially block the intestine or cause choking.

Potpourri: When eaten, potpourri can cause significant gastrointestinal effects in dogs. These may last several days even after the material has passed through the gut.

Cigarettes: Nicotine is toxic to dogs, and cigarette butts are especially dangerous – so it’s important not to leave any ashtrays in reach of dogs over Christmas, or dropped on the floor where they may eat them. Nicotine replacement patches and e-cigarette refills can also pose a risk. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, excess saliva and hypertension.

So watch out for Fido during the most wonderful time of the year and make sure everyone in your family has a happy and healthy holiday!  Kritter Keepers Club is available for boarding, daycare and training as well as at home services.  All of our indoor and outdoor play areas are free from these substances.small KKC logo

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