Christmas Food Dangers for Pets

Dogs and cats in christmas hats
18 Dec 2018

For many, Christmas is a time for overindulging; from roast potatoes and cheese boards, to yule logs and fruitcake, we all tend to eat a little too much during the festive period. And with so much extra food on offer at home, it’s likely that our four-legged friends might try and sneak a treat too.

However, as much as we’d love to spoil our pets this Christmas, many festive foods, such as chocolate and mince pies, can actually be highly toxic to dogs and cats. To help keep your pets safe this Christmas, we’ve put together a list of the most common toxic foods to be aware of.



Although chocolate is a staple part of many family homes all year round, there’s usually so much more of it around at Christmas time; from selection boxes to tree decorations, there are plenty of opportunities for our pets to make a beeline towards these popular sweet treats. However, we need to be extra careful where we store our chocolate, as it contains a chemical called theobromine which is extremely toxic to our four-legged friends.

Theobromine acts as a stimulant, which is similar to caffeine for humans. Even small amounts of this chemical can cause nausea, diarrhoea, a fast heartbeat, seizures and even heart attacks amongst dogs and cats. It’s worth noting that dark chocolate contains more theobromine than milk or white chocolate, however all types of chocolate should be avoided. If your pet does eat any you’ll need to assess exactly how much they’ve consumed. No matter how much they’ve eaten, you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible, as symptoms can depend on the size, breed and general health of your pet.

christmas themed chocolates

Mince Pies and Christmas Puddings

Mince pies and Christmas puddings are a must-have over the festive period, however they both include many ingredients that are poisonous for our pets. Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are toxic to both cats and dogs, so should be avoided at all times.

These types of dried fruit contain a chemical compound that reacts badly with animals, although scientists are yet to find out what causes this reaction. If consumed, your pets may suffer from vomiting or diarrhoea and in worst case scenarios, dried-fruit poisoning may even lead to kidney failure. Also, some Christmas puddings might contain alcohol, which, again, is highly toxic for our pets! This can be a good excuse for you to try your hand at making some homemade festive treats for your pets that can give them a healthy Christmas boost.

festive mince pies

Blue Cheese

Cheese boards are common around Christmas time, but you have to be careful if you’re eating them around your pets. Although there are plenty of different cheeses that aren’t poisonous for our dogs in small quantities, you should never let your pooch eat any form of mouldy cheeses, such as Danish Blue or Stilton. Regular cheeses are simply difficult to digest, so can cause digestive issues or diarrhoea however, mouldy cheeses contain mycotoxin roquefortine, which dogs are particularly sensitive to and can cause kidney problems.

If you have a cat, then it’s best to completely avoid giving them cheese all together. Many cats are in fact lactose intolerant, and with cheese being made up mainly of milk and cream, it can upset your cat’s gastrointestinal systems, causing sickness and diarrhoea.

wedge of blue cheese

Garlic, Chives and Onions

Although it’s unlikely that you’d consciously feed your pet foods such as garlic, chives and onions, you should be aware that all these foods are poisonous to both dogs and cats. These foods belong to the allium family, which can all be dangerous for our pets; large doses of these types of foods can have a range of side effects on our pet’s, such as nausea, oral irritation, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.

At Christmas, it’s particularly important to be aware of garlic, chives and onions, as there are many foods that people eat during the festive season that include these ingredients. From stuffing and seasoned meats to gravy and roast potatoes, these three staple ingredients can be used in a variety of dishes, so always check what’s in your food before feeding your pets any leftovers.

fresh garlic and other vegetables on burlap

Macadamia Nuts

Commonly used in festive recipes such as cookies and cakes, be sure to keep your dog well away from macadamia nuts this Christmas; if your dog does eat this type of nut, symptoms may include weakness and the inability to walk. They may also suffer from vomiting, tremors, hyperthermia and depression. Symptoms can usually appear within 12 hours, and may last between 12 and 48 hours, so it’s always best to check with your vet if your pooch shows any signs of macadamia nut poisoning.

Although toxic for dogs, there’s currently no research to suggest that macadamia nuts are bad for cats, but it’s always best to be cautious when feeding human treats. Always do your research or check with a vet beforehand.

a bowl of macadamia nuts

Aside from this list, there are many other toxic foods that may be in your pet’s reach around Christmas time, such as alcohol, meat bones and red cabbage. If your pet does happen to consume a toxic food, be sure to get in touch with your vet as soon as possible, so they can check their symptoms and give you the best advice on what to do next. It’s always best to take out suitable pet insurance too, just in case your furry-friend does need a trip to the vets after eating something they shouldn’t! Find out more about Asda Money Pet Insurance here. Pre-existing medical conditions are not covered.

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