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Christmas hazards

Christmas hazards

Christmas is a joyous occasion for all but can bring serious hazards for four-legged family members.


We've listed some of the main hazards to keep an eye out for over this Christmas period.

Seasonal foods

Pets love to find food around Christmas time like Christmas ham, Christmas pudding or even chocolate, here is a list of food which can be toxic to your pet:

  • Grapes, raisins, cherries, onions, garlic.
  • Raw dairy; milk, fresh cheese and ice cream.
  • Breads.
  • Christmas cake or pudding.
  • Mince pies.
  • Chocolate.
  • Peanuts and macadamia nuts.
  • Alcohol.
  • Peach and nectarine stones.
  • Sugar.
  • Cooked bones.
  • Fatty food - high fat may cause stomach upset and in some cases pancreatitis (similar to a human appendicitis).

Seasonal Decorations

Our pets love to explore the decorations or even a present under the tree as they're new and exciting items. Here are some items to be aware of over this holiday season:

Avoid pets nibbling at pine needles as these are toxic and can cause excessive vomiting

Christmas Trees

There are other dangers to consider with the Christmas tree other than lights and ornaments. The oils produced by fir and pine trees can be irritating to a pet's mouth and stomach, causing excessive vomiting or drooling. The tree needles, may also cause gastrointestinal irritation, obstruction and puncture.

Additionally, the water used to nourish Christmas trees can be toxic if it has had Panadol or Aspirin added. The water should be changed regularly to avoid bacteria and moulds developing.

Seasonal Plants

  • Poinsettias – commonly used as decoration around the holiday season can irritate your pet’s mouth and stomach and can cause vomiting.
  • Lilies – popular gifts around Christmas time. Lilium and Hemerocallis genera lilies are the most dangerous. Eating even a small amount of the plant or cleaning the pollen off fur will have a severe impact on a cat’s system causing severe symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, irregular heartbeats and convulsions.
  • Daffodils – another popular gift around Christmas but unfortunately toxic for both cats and dogs, especially the bulbs.

Wrapping and Decorations

Baubles, lights, and tinsel are at their best on the Christmas tree. But, are often found at their worst inside our pets. Shimmering and bright tinsel, toys and baubles will draw our pets interest and they will often end up accidentally ingesting them. Nothing takes the joy out of Christmas faster than a loved pet undergoing emergency surgery.

You can help by preventing access to the tree prior to Christmas with a play pen fence or preventing your pets access to the room with the tree in it. On Christmas morning be extra careful with your wrapping and small toys and perhaps set your dog up outside with a meal or chew treat once your Christmas lunch gets underway and all the bad cracker jokes and small cracker toys are unleashed!

While the holidays are fun for us humans, they can present a lot of dangers to our pets. Don’t let your Christmas get interrupted by a trip to the emergency vet! Here are some common holiday hazards and tips to keep your pet safe this festive season.


Seasonal foods: Dog looking at person making cookies

Many common treats and snacks we enjoy during our holiday celebrations can be dangerous to our pets. Animals digest and metabolise food differently to humans, so what might be perfectly fine for us can make our pets seriously ill. Here’s a list of common festive foods that are not safe for pets:

Fruit cake and Christmas pudding

Sultanas, grapes, raisins, and currants are toxic to dogs and can lead to kidney failure. These ingredients are often found in mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake.

Onions & garlic

Both onions and garlic are poisonous to pets, which can damage red blood cells causing life-threatening anaemia if eaten.


Avocados can cause serious health problems in pets. If your dog does eat avocado, a common symptom to watch for is vomiting or diarrhoea, as avocados are high in fat which can potentially cause a stomach upset. High-fat foods can also lead to pancreatitis in dogs, a very serious condition. Avocados are also highly toxic to birds and small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs and should never be included in their diet, as well as avocado-containing foods (such as guacamole).

Top to Tail Tip: Keep human food out of reach - Think twice about leaving food in places that might be easily accessible to pets.


Chocolate contains theobromine which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeats and in severe cases, seizures and death. Dark cooking chocolate contains high levels of theobromine so take extra care when baking at Christmas to keep your pets safe.


Stuffing is a fatty, sodium-packed food that contains onions and garlic, which are toxic to both cats and dogs.


Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in some products such as chewing gum, lollies, mints, and toothpaste and is highly toxic for cats and dogs.

Fruit pits and seeds

Pits and seeds of peaches, plums, persimmons, and apples contain a substance that degrades to cyanide, which is toxic. The pits of peaches and other stone fruit are also potential choking hazards that can cause blockages and damage to the intestine.

Turkey skin/pork crackling/sausages/ham

The high salt and fat content of ham, sausages, fat trimmings, and other processed meats can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and may lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Give your furry friend some tasty pet treats instead.


Ham and poultry bones (or any bone) have the potential to splinter and become stuck in the throat or pierce your dog’s intestinal tract. Most especially, cooked bones should always be avoided - they can become brittle and cause tooth fractures as well as easily break into sharp shards that can do a lot of damage when they pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

It’s safest to avoid bones of any type and ensure the rubbish is secure so your pet doesn’t help themselves!


While it’s very tasty, gravy is too salty and fatty for your pets and may contribute to pancreatitis.

Alcohol and caffeine

Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks are toxic to pets so keep them well away from prying paws. Even seemingly harmless amounts can be lethal. Remember that alcohol can be found in many baked goods, such as fruit cake, so keep these out of your furry friend’s reach.

Safety reminder: Secure your bins

Many pets are notorious bin divers, who given the opportunity, will quickly consume even the nastiest of food and non-food specimens. Ensure you have purchased bins with secure tops and ensure that all waste is disposed of adequately during and after the festivities.

If you believe your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t have this holiday season, contact your local Animates Vetcare clinic or closest emergency vet for advice.


Christmas decorations : Cat sitting next to christmas tree covered in decorations

‘Tis the season where pets are intrigued by sparkling lights, swinging baubles and ribbon wrapped gifts. ‘Tis also the season of unusual decoration-related injuries in household pets.

Here are six tips to help keep pets safe this Christmas:

1. Christmas tree safety

If you have a cat who loves to climb, make sure your Christmas tree is safely secured to the ground or wall. Toppling trees are a source of injury (and destruction of your home). For fake synthetic trees, make sure you stabilise individual branch sections to avoid any accidents. Prevent access to the tree from curious pets with a playpen fence, or keep the tree in a room you can close off.

Avoid edible decorations on your tree that can be toxic to your pet and take extra care with leaving chocolate-based presents under the tree (i.e. scorched almonds).

If you have a real tree, cover the tree water so your pet can’t spill it or drink from it. This water can contain fertiliser and bacteria that can cause your pet to become ill if ingested. Also, it's important to keep pine needles away from your pets and clean up any needles that fall from the branches of lives trees, as they can potentially cause irritation in the mouth and tummy if consumed.

Top to Tail Tip: Pet-proof the tree - Barricade your Christmas tree behind baby gates or pens to keep your pet out.2. Christmas lights and power cords

Cords should be kept neat, tidy, and out of sight from pets to avoid any nasty shocks. If your puppy or kitten is teething and chewing, be extra cautious with extension leads, as they are soft and highly desirable chew objects. Power cords are also very inviting to small animals - rabbits, guinea pigs and rats love to chew and are often attracted to electrical cables – so make sure to keep these out of reach from your small furry friend too!

3. Ornaments

Glass baubles can easily break and create sharp shards, which are very dangerous to animals. Place glass, aluminium, and paper ornaments higher up on the tree, as they can create a choking hazard or hurt your pet’s intestines if being swallowed. Opt for plastic ornaments over glass ones to reduce the risk of breakages and injury.

4. Tinsel

Cats love to play with string, and tinsel is a highly enticing choice. Tinsel and ribbon can play havoc in the intestines if eaten. If your pet is particularly interested in string, ribbon, and tinsel, consider decorating your tree with something else. If you suspect your pet has swallowed a decoration, contact your vet immediately.

Top to Tail Tip : Choose your decorations wisely - Decorate with shatterproof ornaments such as those made from plastic, wood or paper.5. Decorations and wrapping paper

Avoid attracting your pet’s attention to the decorations, presents and wrapping paper. While tempting to get excited and show off shiny decorations and presents to our pets, avoid decorating the tree or wrapping presents when they are near. They may interpret this as an invitation to play with them. Eating decorations and paper can cause harm to your pet’s digestive system.

6. Candles

Don’t leave lit candles unattended, as curious pets may knock them over and cause a fire or burn themselves. Scented candles, incense, and air fresheners are highly poisonous to birds due to their sensitive respiratory system. Switch to battery or solar-operated candles to keep your pets safe.


Seasonal plants : Red Christmas Lilies

It's hard to resist decking the halls with the stunning live plants at Christmas! Unfortunately, some of the most popular holiday plants are harmful and even poisonous for cats and dogs. Avoid these common holiday plants to ensure a safe season for your pet:

Christmas trees

Fir, spruce, and some pine trees commonly used at Christmas are generally non-toxic to pets (however some pine trees have toxic sap/pine oil). However, fallen needles from the trees can irritate your pet's mouth, get stuck in their paws, and can cause an upset tummy if too many are eaten.


This traditional holiday plant can irritate your pet’s mouth and stomach and can cause vomiting if ingested.

Top to Tail Tip : Choose pet-safe plants - Rather than fresh flowers, opt for artificial plants made of silk and plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.Lilies

Lilies are poisonous to dogs and cats, however the effects are much more severe in cats. In fact, cats are so sensitive that grooming lily pollen off their fur can lead to kidney failure. Many types of lilies can harm your pet, including, but not limited to, Christmas lilies, Lilium and Hemerocallis genera lilies.

Safety reminder: Keep lilies away from your cats.

Any bouquet containing lilies should be placed in a room the cats don’t have access to, or the lilies should be discarded altogether.


Daffodils are another popular gift around Christmas that are toxic for both cats and dogs, especially the bulbs.


Holly berries contain chemicals that are toxic to pets. Swallowing these chemicals can result in extreme gastrointestinal distress resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea. Further, the spiny leaves from the holly plant can cause injury to your pet’s mouth and digestive tract if swallowed. 


Mistletoe is toxic to cats and dogs, making it another common holiday hazard. Toxins found in mistletoe plants can cause stomach upset like abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, drooling, dramatic drops in blood pressure and heart rate, seizures and even death. 

You know your pet the best - if you notice they are acting out of the ordinary, please call your vet for advice. Stay safe and have a happy Christmas!

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