Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the holiday season are times of food, family, loved ones, and celebration but it's not a time you want to take your beloved pet to the vets. With a rich assortment of foods on the table, you're opening up your canine companion to a minefield of potential hazards and unknown poisons. According to The Kennel Club stats in 2019, in December dogs are 86% more likely to poison themselves than in any other month. For those with dogs at home during the festive season, it's vital to know which foods are safe for your four-legged pooches and which aren't. Let's explore.

#1 Chocolate: the sweet menace

Who doesn't love a sneaky biscuit or chocolate tin at Christmas or that box of Roses/Heroes/Celebrations/Hotel Chocolat or even the cheeky After Eight box? There are kids' candy stockings packed with choccy coins, choccy reindeer figures, and tubes of Smarties and even chocolate tree baubles; the list is endless. 

But those holiday treats and puddings laden with delicious chocolate contain theobromine, which is an alkaloid in cacao. In humans, it's known to improve mood, reduce fatigue, and increase alertness; dogs, however, metabolise theobromine more slowly than humans. Dark, premium quality and baking chocolate have higher theobromine concentrations, which make them even more hazardous to dogs. Ingesting chocolate can lead to symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhoea to more severe issues such as increased heart rate, seizures, and even death. So make sure you and your guests aren't accidentally (or especially intentionally) dropping extra bits of chocolate on the floor for the dog to hoover up.

#2 Grapes and raisins: silent dangers

If you love Christmas cake and Christmas pud or even fruity stuffing, grapes and raisins can be toxic to dogs, causing kidney failure (and also a choking hazard for your toddlers too) and even death. Some foods containing raisins may not be as obvious like Stollen cake, Lebkuchen, nut roast, and Christmas cookies.

Dogs cannot metabolise tannins, flavonoids, or monosaccharides found in grapes and even though scientists don't exactly know which toxic substance is linked to kidney failure, even small quantities can lead to adverse reactions, including lethargy, vomiting, and a loss of appetite. Be sure to keep these festive fruits out of reach and resist the urge to share them with your dog even if the brandy butter tempts them.

#3 Onions, leeks, chives, and garlic: flavourful foes

This "oniony" goodness, also known as alliums, is toxic to dogs. All parts of the plant are toxic even when cooked or dried (so no crisps containing chives either). It's thought alliums contain toxins called disulphides and thiosulfinates, which cause damage to dogs' red blood cells, which leads to anaemia. Some dogs, of course, are more sensitive to this type of poisoning than others. While the effects may not be immediately apparent, repeated exposure over time can have serious consequences. Symptoms include weakness, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Again, it's not always obvious which foods contain onions, but one common Christmas dinner food is the humble stuffing.

#4 Alcohol: a no for canines

For many holiday revellers, alcohol is often within paw's reach, but alcohol can have a stronger impact on dogs than humans. Dogs, unsurprisingly, cannot metabolise alcohol. Any foods, beverages, or household products that contain different forms of alcohol are toxic. Even small amounts can lead to intoxication, resulting in symptoms like disorientation, lethargy, respiratory depression, low body temperature, and in severe cases, coma or death. No boozy pooches! You might also want to keep that one uncle away from the drinks cabinet too!

#5 Xylitol: the sweetener to avoid

Xylitol is a common sweetener found in many sugar-free treats but it's toxic to dogs. Xylitol is quickly absorbed into a dog's bloodstream which causes a mass and potent insulin release from the pancreas. Then, after the flood of insulin, it causes a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) within ten minutes to an hour after ingestion. Symptoms may include seizures, loss of coordination, and, in severe cases, liver failure.

#6 Fatty foods: pancreatitis peril

Whether you're indulging in pigs in blankets, turkey skin, gravy, or fried treats, it may be tempting to share these rich, fatty foods with our pets, but they can actually lead to pancreatitis in dogs, causing inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, and lethargy. Severe cases may require veterinary intervention.

#7 Nuts: nutty hazards

Not all nuts are toxic to dogs but excess fatty foods can lead (as in the point above) to pancreatitis. However, just as some humans have severe nut allergies, certain nuts such as macadamia nuts, can be toxic to dogs. Ingesting these nuts can lead to symptoms like weakness, vomiting, and hyperthermia. Macadamia nuts might not be a common Christmas food unlike the chestnuts and Bussell's sprouts but some Christmas tables have a few chocolate-covered ones (which makes them doubly toxic). If you're indulging in mixed spiced nuts, nut-based desserts, and any dishes containing nuts, keep them out of your dog's reach.

The takeaways

If you're entertaining for the holidays and your beloved pets will be mingling with your guests, ensure they understand the common foods that are toxic to dogs so that they aren't unintentionally feeding them scraps – or unintentionally sloshing their champagne on the floor for the dog to mop up or accidentally dropping nuts and sweet treats.

If accidental ingestion occurs or if you suspect your dog has consumed something toxic, prompt veterinary attention is crucial for the well-being of your beloved pet. Keeping these potential hazards in mind means that pet owners can navigate the holiday season safely, cherishing the festive moments with their dogs without compromising their health.

Why not tag us in your doggy stories @triabeautyuk on Tria Beauty UK's Facebook or Instagram if you're dressing up your pet in a holiday outfit this year? And check out our past post about the UK's favourite dog breeds.

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