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What NOT to Feed Your Pet at Christmas

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

While treating your pets during the festive season may be tempting, some foods can be particularly harmful.

To keep your pets happy and healthy this Christmas, we recommend that you avoid feeding them the following foods:

Chocolate and Xylitol

Christmas is often a sweet occasion, with many of us celebrating the festive season with chocolates, lollies and other sugary treats. However, foods containing chocolate or xylitol can be dangerous and even potentially fatal for our pets.


Chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats and can result in significant illness. Chocolate is toxic because it contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Theobromine is the predominant toxin in chocolate and is very similar to caffeine.

Dogs and cats cannot metabolise theobromine and caffeine as well as people can, and this makes them more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include:

● Vomiting and diarrhea

● Increased thirst

● Panting or restlessness

● Excessive urination

● Racing heart rate


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is most commonly found in food products; however, it can be found in other consumer goods such as medications, sunscreen, makeup and toothpaste.

Xylitol consumption can be dangerous for your dog, although it does not cause serious problems in cats or ferrets. In dogs, it causes low blood sugar and liver injury.

Signs of low blood sugar include:

● Weakness

● Unsteadiness

● Shaking

Signs of liver injury may include:

● Decrease in appetite

● Lethargy

● Yellowing of the skin

● Vomiting and diarrhoea

Please store chocolates, lollies and other products containing xylitol safely away from curious pets. If you suspect that your pet has ingested chocolate or xylitol, please call us immediately on (07) 3288 1822.

Salty Foods

When your best mate is staring longingly at your bowl of snacks, it can be tempting to sneak him a chip or two. However, in addition to having an unhealthy fat content, snack foods are often very high in salt.

A large amount of salt in your dog’s blood can cause sodium poisoning if your dog eats enough of it and has no fresh water to drink.

Please store salty foods in cupboards out of reach, and if you're popping out, don't forget to move the snack bowl from the coffee table!

Milk, Cheese and Dairy

Cats and dogs are unable to break down the lactose in dairy products, leaving the lactose sugar in their system for the bacteria in their intestines to ferment. This can lead to intestinal cramps and diarrhoea.

While some types of dairy are likely to cause tummy trouble, other products are OK to use as an occasional treat. Some dogs retain the ability to digest milk all throughout their lives; however, if you notice even the slightest sign of gastrointestinal trouble after they consume even a small amount of dairy, then it’s best not to feed them any at all.

Grapes, Currants and Raisins

Raisins, currants and sultanas are all toxic to dogs. These fruits can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even kidney failure, which can sometimes be delayed for up to 72 hours.

Signs of kidney failure can include:

● decreased urination

● lethargy

● increased thirst

Garlic, Onions, Chives and Leeks

All four of these herbs belong to the Allium family. While these traditional seasonings are common on any Christmas menu, they can make our pets very sick.

Although clinical signs of illness, such as vomiting, can occur soon after your dog eats any of these, the full onset of signs may take several days to appear.

In most cases, consumption causes:

● gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract)

● irritation of the mouth

● drooling

● nausea

● abdominal pain

● vomiting

● diarrhoea

Cooked Bones

Cooked bones can easily splinter into small, sharp pieces. If ingested, these jagged shards might cause choking or significant internal harm, including:

● broken teeth

● mouth injuries, such as bone splinters piercing the tongue and gums

● pieces of bone becoming stuck in the oesophagus, trachea, or intestines

● constipation from bone fragments

● internal bleeding from fragments piercing internal organs

● peritonitis (a bacterial infection in the abdomen)

● pancreatitis from the high-fat content (more on this below)

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs. Signs of poisoning can develop within 3-24 hrs after ingestion and include:

● weakness

● reluctance to stand

● reluctance to walk

● trembling

● lethargy

● vomiting

● fever


Every year around Christmas time, we see a noticeable increase in the number of pancreatitis cases in dogs. Pancreatitis is an acute, painful inflammation of the pancreas and can be fatal in many cases, so it’s important for pet owners to be aware of the causes and symptoms.

Causes of Pancreatitis

The pancreas works to help your dog’s body metabolise sugars and produce insulin. The pancreas also produces enzymes that are vital for digesting nutrients. With all of the extra cooking at this time of year, many dogs are affected by pancreatitis due to being fed off-cuts and table scraps that are greasy and high in fat.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

Dogs with pancreatitis usually fall ill suddenly, often within a matter of hours. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis include:

● Hunched posture

● Painful abdomen

● Distended, enlarged abdomen

● Poor appetite

● Lethargy

● Vomiting

● Dehydration

● Diarrhoea

Your dog can become critically and even fatally ill very quickly, so if you suspect your dog may have pancreatitis, you should call us immediately on (07) 3288 1822.

If you suspect that your dog or cat has eaten any of the above foods, please contact us immediately. Try and gauge how much they’ve eaten, as this can assist in providing appropriate treatment.

Have a safe and happy Christmas!


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