Most of us know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but it can also be lethal to rabbits, rodents and cats. The amount of the toxin theobromine (found in cocoa) in the chocolate determines the severity of the symptoms. Dark chocolate is particularly toxic, especially for small sized pets. Vomiting and diarrhoea are common at lower doses, but high blood pressure, dehydration, and a racing heart can occur, with seizures or even death resulting in extreme cases.
Food originating from grapes (grapes, raisins, sultanas) can cause kidney failure in dogs. While we believe that cooking disables the toxin, it is probably a good idea to keep your dog away from dried fruit, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies.
Onions, garlic and leeks contain compounds which, even when they are cooked, can cause anaemia by destroying red blood cells.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many processed foods. While harmless to humans it can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.
Some ‘edible’ hazards are not intended to be eaten at all! When tinsel, ribbons or string are swallowed the intestines can bunch up tightly, or become perforated, leading to peritonitis and possibly death. It is surprising how many cats love chewing on the Christmas flower arrangement. Unfortunately lilies are highly toxic if swallowed, and the resultant kidney failure can be fatal.
Don’t let this list of dangers frighten you into locking yourself, Fido and Fluffy in a safe room for the remainder of the holidays. Prevention is better than cure, and as long as you remain aware of the potential hazards you and your pets should enjoy a lovely festive period!