Many foods, plants and items that are harmless to humans can cause bad and even dire reactions in our pets. It’s important this holiday season that pet owners know what they should be keeping away from their pets.

If your pet happens to ingest any of the following, please contact your local vet for advice.


Ingestion of chocolate can cause toxicity to your pet. Chocolate with high levels of theobromine cause a higher level of toxicity: this means that darker chocolate poses a higher risk, whilst the risk from white chocolate or carob is minimal. The clinical signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, light/noise sensitivity, tremors, seizures, increased heart rate and in extreme cases, death. If your dog ingests chocolate please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.


The fatty parts of meat when given to your pet can cause significant gastrointestinal upset. In some cases, pancreatitis can occur which results in severe vomiting and gut pain. Without treatment from your veterinarian this can result in death. Clinical signs include lethargy, inappetance, vomiting and severe gut pain. Please contact your local veterinarian if your pet shows these symptoms.


Pets can be poisoned by the ingestion of macadamia nuts. Clinic signs include hind limb weakness, abnormal gait, high temperature. These clinical signs normally develop over 12-24 hours. These animals often need supportive care.


During the holidays, Poinsettias are a popular #Christmas plant. Poinsettia plants are mildly toxic to #cats and #dogs. The milky white sap found in poinsettias contain chemicals that, when ingested, can cause vomiting, drooling, or sometimes, diarrhoea. If the milky sap is exposed to skin, dermal irritation (including redness, swelling, and itchiness) may develop. Eye exposure can result in a mild conjunctivitis. Signs are self-limiting and generally don’t require medical treatment unless severe. There is no antidote for poinsettia poisoning.


Alcohol poisoning is more common than you think because it can be hidden in other foods (eg: unbaked goods containing yeast, risotto with added wine). Alcohol consumption can be a deadly for pets so it’s extremely important you watch for signs of poisoning and get to a vet immediately. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Common signs to watch for include drooling; retching, vomiting, bloat, collapsing, coma and hypothermia.


Caffeine is more and more prominent in our food, it can be found in coffee, tea, soft drink, energy drinks, weight loss supplements, cocoa powder, candy and chocolate to name a few. While a very small amount generally won’t cause poisoning in pets, moderate amounts such as coffee grounds, tea bags or 1-2 diet pills can cause death in small dogs and cats. Signs to look for include hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, an elevated heart rate, body temperature or blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures or collapsing.


While the flesh of a cherry is not poisonous to your pet, the seed, stem and all other plant parts are (so beware if you have a cherry tree or shrub). The plant parts contain cyanide which can prevent appropriate oxygen intake. Signs to watch out for include: dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, inadequate oxygen levels, bright red gums, shock and even death (if enough is ingested).


Grapes are toxic to your dog, even a small amount can result in severe, acute kidney failure. Anything containing a grape product can result in this so it is imperative you monitor your dog’s access to them. Sign to watch for include: vomiting, diarrhoea, abnormal drinking or urination, lethargy, inappetance, halitosis and dehydration. If you suspect your pet has ingested grapes, call your local vet immediately. Decontamination (e.g., inducing vomiting, decontaminating with activated charcoal, etc.), aggressive supportive care, aggressive IV fluid therapy, and kidney function monitoring will likely be recommended.


Christmas plants like Holly and mistletoe can be toxic to pets as they contain potentially toxic substances. When ingested, severe gastrointestinal upset can occur due to the spiny leaves. Symptoms of toxic effect include: lip smacking, drooling and excessive head shaking. If you suspect your pet has ingested holly, contact your local vet.


Like cherries, the seed, stem, leaves and other plant parts contain cyanide which can prevent appropriate oxygen intake in your pet. Signs to watch out for include: dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, inadequate oxygen levels, bright red gums, shock and even death (if enough is ingested).


Rum, raisins and currents (sometimes even macadamia nuts!) can be found in this traditional Christmas treat. These are all absolute no-no’s so it’s important you keep your pet away from the dessert table this Christmas. Raisins and currents are the same as grapes and can cause kidney failure. Alcohol is also very toxic and potentially deadly – so while you can cut a slice for yourself, please be sure to distract your pet with something more delectable and pet-friendly.


Tinsel itself isn’t poisonous, it’s just extremely dangerous if your pet ingests it. Tinsel can get wrapped around the base of the tongue or anchor itself in the stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, the tinsel can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Ultimately, pets run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of, their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery. Call your local vet if your pet ingests tinsel.

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