Christmas is a time for food, food and more food. Because your dog’s nose is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than yours, this can seem exciting and the source of lots more treats than usual. Unfortunately, many of the traditional foods we enjoy during the festive season are bad for a dog’s health. Before you give into your pet’s begging at Christmas, read our overview of the foods you should avoid giving your dog.
Chocolate contains a chemical that is poisonous to dogs called theobromine. Darker more expensive chocolates typically contain the most theobromine. Once ingested by a dog, chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. As a stimulant, chocolate can also make your dog overexcited and cause symptoms such as twitching, tremors and fits. In the worst cases, eating chocolate can be fatal for a dog. It’s also important that you don’t forget about chocolate presents under the tree. Just because chocolate is wrapped, it doesn’t mean your dog won’t be able to smell it. Most chocolate wrappers are not poisonous, but they can cause blockages in your dog’s gut if eaten. Signs your dog may have eaten chocolate and wrappers include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite and constipation.
Grapes, Raisins, Currants and Sultanas
Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are all toxic to dogs. Although we don’t know the exact reason why these fruits trigger a toxic reaction in dogs, they can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even kidney failure. Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, fruit cake and mince pies all include grapes, raisins, currants or sultanas, so it’s important that you keep them out the reach of your dog.
Like grapes, no one has yet proven why macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs. However, when eaten, they can cause dogs to become sleepy, appear wobbly on their feet or have trouble walking. Macadamia nuts can also cause vomiting and tremors as well as an increase in body temperature, which usually occurs within 12 hours and can last up to two days.
Turkey and other Christmas meats are not poisonous for dogs. That said, when cooked, bones become brittle and can therefore easily splinter, which means you need to be careful when giving your dog leftover meats. If ingested, larger pieces of bone can cause choking. Smaller pieces of bone can irritate the gut, or even puncture the stomach or intestinal wall. During your Christmas celebrations, you should keep all meat safely from the reach of dogs. And, when throwing the carcass away, make sure you put it in a bin that your dog cannot get into once left unattended.
Onion and Garlic
Onions and garlics as well as leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the allium family. The sulphurs contained in these vegetables react with a dog’s red blood cells and can cause life-threatening anaemia. Symptoms might not appear for a few days but include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and lethargy. At Christmas, it’s sensible to keep dogs away from stuffing and gravy that may contain onions or other vegetables in the allium family.
Roquefortine C is a substance produced by the fungus used to produce blue cheese. Some dogs are sensitive to roquefortine C. In the worst cases, it has caused dogs to develop muscle tremors and seizures that can last up to two days.
What Should You Do in an Emergency?
It doesn’t matter how careful you are, it’s still possible that dog eats something it shouldn’t over the Christmas period. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to have the number of your vet saved in your phone. If you think your dog has eaten something it will find poisonous, ring for help immediately.