Vets reveal the Christmas foods that can be TOXIC for pets – and what to do if they eat them

With Christmas upon us, we all want to spoil our loved ones – including our pets.

But think twice before feeding your dog some tasty Christmas foods, as they could end up being poisonous for them.

Sage and onion stuffing, Christmas pudding and blue cheese are all off the list for our beloved pets as Christmas draws in.

It comes as dog experts have warned our beloved pets are 75 per cent more likely to need a visit to the vet in December.

As Christmas approaches fast, there are a number of festive treats that should be off limits to dogs, including Mince Pies, Christmas Pudding and chocolate.

Top tips to prevent pets from eating unsafe foods

There are some easy ways to keep your pets from eating Christmas foods that can harm them this festive season:

Keep unsafe food out of reach

Christmas treats from selection boxes to cheese boards should all be kept well out of the way of our pets.

Remove chocolate decorations from your Christmas tree as pets can knock them off easily and then eat them.

Experts even avoid putting selection boxes as presents under the tree as dogs can smell them through the wrapping paper.

Keep pets away while eating

While you are tucking into your Christmas dinner, keep your pets in a separate room.

This avoids them eating food that has dropped on the floor or jumping up to grab some of what’s on offer.

Check components

It may sound obvious but make sure you check all ingredients on your food before feeding your pet.

Lots of Christmas foods contain garlic or onion powder to add flavour.

As garlic and onion are toxic to our pets, you need to be careful.

British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley said: ‘Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year but not if you end up with a poorly pet. Being vigilant and taking a few key precautions is all that is needed to keep your pets happy and healthy during the festive period.

‘Keep all edible items, decorations and anything else a pet may mistake for a tasty treat out of their reach to help prevent avoidable emergency visits to the vet.

We also advise keeping pets to their normal diets and avoiding feeding them any human food.

Christmas pudding and mince pies

While many find Christmas pudding and mince pies as delicious festive staples, you should not feed them to your pets.

Both puddings are filled with dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas and currants all of which are toxic to cats and dogs.

If consumed, they could cause your pet to have kidney failure.

Sage and onion stuffing

Dogs and cats should steer clear of any Christmas foods containing allium vegetables – that means no garlic, onions, leeks or chives.

These vegetables contain a chemical called N-propyl disulfide, which, if consumed, can cause damage to animals’ red blood cells, which could lead to anemia.

If your pet does end up eating one of these vegetables, symptoms to look out for include diarrhea, stomach pain and appearing weak or fatigued.

Your met may also be off their regular food.

Chocolate

It is a well known fact that dogs and cats should not eat chocolate as it contains ingredients that are toxic to them.

Vet experts from OurFitPets said: ‘Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which animals can’t metabolise easily, and causes overstimulation of their muscles, including their heart.

Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the worst offenders as they contain the highest levels of theobromine, while white chocolate is the least harmful as it contains only a small amount of the compound.

‘Although it’s still not recommended giving your pets white chocolate, as the high levels of fat and sugar are still likely to upset their stomachs.’

Dogs and cats should steer clear of any allium vegetables - that means no garlic, onions, leeks or chives.  This means no sage and onion stuffing should be given to your pooches

Dogs and cats should steer clear of any allium vegetables – that means no garlic, onions, leeks or chives. This means no sage and onion stuffing should be given to your pooches

What to do if your pet eats something it shouldn’t

Pets can easily grab some food they shouldn’t be eating if it’s left around the kitchen this Christmas.

This is what you should do if your pet eats something they should not have:

Call the vet immediately: Vets will be able to offer advice on what to do and whether you need to bring your pet in. The quicker you call the vet the more likely your pet is to recover.

Note the time and quantity of food eaten: Owners need to be able to provide vets with as much information on what has been consumed as possible. This includes the ingredients and the amount.

Do not try to make your pet sick: This can cause further health issues. If your vet needs to make your pet throw up they will do in a safe manner.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, having a higher heart rate and a faster breathing rate.

Your pet may also be an excitable mood or experience muscle twitching.

Last year, British Vet Association President Justine Shotton said: ‘I’ve worked a lot in emergency practice and have seen many avoidable cases involving toxic festive hazards over the years, especially those involving dogs having chocolates and puddings or pies containing raisins.

It really doesn’t take very long for our inquisitive pets to sniff out chocolates left out under the tree or in advent calendars, gobble down a mince pie when your head is turned, or polish off puddings left unattended on the kitchen counter.

‘This can have serious consequences for our pets’ health and can result in costly emergency care, including surgery if they’ve inserted objects like Christmas tree baubles or tinsel.’

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service said that vomiting and diarrhea caused by pets eating chocolate could lead to dehydration.

It explained: ‘Theobromine also stimulates the myocardium and the CNS [central nervous system], leading to hyperactivity and pyrexia, and developing hypertension and severe tachycardia; In extreme cases muscle rigidity, tremors and convulsions may be seen.’

Roast potatoes

Dogs can eat potatoes at Christmas, but it is best that they are not roasted.

Dr Linda Simon, the in-house Veterinary Surgeon at Pooch & Mutt, explained: ‘Dogs can eat potatoes in moderation, but roast potatoes are slightly too fatty for their delicate gut.

When cooking up the roast, boil some potatoes or perhaps mash a small amount on the side without adding salt or butter.

Just make sure it’s not the main component of the meal, as starchy foods are hard for a dog to digest. Take up space with veggies instead.’

British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley said: 'Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year but not if you end up with a poorly pet.  Being vigilant and taking a few key precautions is all that is needed to keep your pets happy.

British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley said: ‘Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year but not if you end up with a poorly pet. Being vigilant and taking a few key precautions is all that is needed to keep your pets happy.

Treatments for toxins

The type of treatment your dog will receive from a vet depends entirely on what your dog has eaten and how much it has been eaten.

The PDSA pets charity said treatment could include:

An injection to make them sick

Activated charcoal in a meal

An overnight stay on a fluid drip

Blood tests

Any medicines to reduce the effects of the substance

An X-ray or an ultrasound

An emergency operation

Macadamia nuts

Nobody knows why macadamia nuts are unsafe for pets to eat, but they can make them appear sleepy or weak.

In the past, vets have reported pets with stiff or painful joints, causing walking problems, having eaten Macadamia nuts.

Some suggest this could be because the nuts are very fatty, causing inflammation of the pancreas.

Other symptoms include vomiting, raised body temperature and tremors.

Blue cheese

Steer clear from feeding your pets blue cheese, or any moldy foods for that matter.

Blue cheeses, such as Roquefort, contain a compound called roquefortine C.

This compound is known to cause problems for pets such as muscle tremors and seizures that can last up to two days.

Any gone-off dairy or bread products that contain a mycotoxin-producing mold or fungi can also have a similar impact on pets if they ingest them.

Alcohol

This might seem like a no-brainer, but animals should not be fed alcohol, so be sure to check the ingredients of festive foods before you give them to your pets.

Animals cannot process ethanol as easily as humans can.

It can cause pets to become drowsy and unstable, with their body temperatures and blood sugars also plummeting to points which can lead to seizures or a coma.

Turkey bones and fatty foods

Turkey and chicken bones are not toxic to animals but are brittle, meaning they have a high chance of splintering and getting stuck in your pet’s throat or stomach.

Any form of fatty foods, including fatty meats, can also cause your pet to have stomach issues.

Turkey skin and pigs in blankets contain a high proportion of fat that could make your pet unwell.

The RSPCA said: ‘Skinless and boneless white meat such as turkey is okay for dogs and cats, but be careful that it’s not covered in fat, salt or gravy.

“It’s best for your pets to stick to their normal food.”

Vets from Davies, the veterinary specialists, said: ‘Remember showing that you love and care for your pet can be far more about what you don’t allow your pet to eat than the treats they receive.

‘The simple watchword is ‘awareness’ and making sure all members of the family and any guests are aware of what is safe for your pet.’

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How to make a dog friendly dinner for your dog this Christmas season

Just because your dog cannot eat everything that you would have with your Christmas dinner does not mean they have to miss out completely.

You can instead make a dog-friendly Christmas dinner that will leave your dog feeling happy and healthy.

This includes:

  • Use lean meat, such as chicken and turkey. Fatty meats are more likely to make your pet unwell
  • Vegetables such as peas and carrots are a healthy choice to include that do not cause stomach problems for dogs
  • Give your dog new potatoes rather than roast potatoes. Roast potatoes use a lot of fat which is not good for your pet
  • Your dog can have gravy as long as it has reduced salt and no garlic or onion in it

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