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Keep Your Pets Safe This Christmas!

With the festive season upon us, It's time to peel those prawns, get together with family and friends and eat an embarrassing amount of delicious food!

However, while you're cracking your Christmas crackers and clinking your champagne glasses keep in mind the delicious dangers that surround your beloved pets this Christmas.

Unsure of what foods pose a risk to your pets health? We've compiled a list of some common festive food dangers this season and have also included some alternative foods that your pet can enjoy so they don't miss out!

Human food is for HUMANS ONLY

Yummm.. Christmas ham, roast turkey, the abundance of seafood, pavlova, fruit cake- is there anything more delicious? To help you and your family from any after hours trips to the emergency vet, it's important to remember that human food should only be eaten by humans. Here is a list of some popular festive foods that should be kept well out of reach of your fur family:

Ham and fatty meats

It may sound strange that dogs can have a bad reaction to ingesting meat, but pancreatitis is one of the most common illnesses that veterinary clinics are inundated with at this time of the year.

Why does this happen you ask? If you feed your dog something like leftover ham, sausages, or the fatty offcuts from a Christmas turkey, this is a lot more fat than your dog's body is used to ingesting in one go. In an effort to digest all this fat, the pancreas can very quickly go into overdrive and become painful, inflamed, and swollen in a condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can cause vomiting, nausea, dehydration, and worsening illness. It can even leave your dog with a lifelong sensitivity to fat, and you will be left having to feed them a special therapeutic diet for the rest of their life. Best to resist the urge to 'treat' your dog and save the meat for your own leftover lunch on Boxing Day, instead!

Macadamia Nuts

Whether they're part of a fruit cake, within a delicious slab of boutique chocolate, or just as a tasty treat on their own, macadamia nuts are highly poisonous to dogs. While the exact cause of the toxicosis is unknown, signs of macadamia nut poisoning include an inability to walk or stand, wobbly gait, tremors, hyperthermia, and vomiting. If encased in their shell, they can also pose a risk as a gastrointestinal foreign body. Yikes! Be sure to keep these crunchy nuts out of reach!

Grapes, Raisins and Sultanas

Often found on Christmas day within a fruit cake, fruit platter, or as part of a spiced meat sauce, grapes and their dehydrated versions can actually cause kidney failure in cats and dogs. The exact mechanism of this is unknown, so it is impossible to calculate a universal toxic dose. Best to keep them out of reach from your fur family!


Just like small children, cats and dogs are much more sensitive to alcohol than adult humans and can become 'drunk' and poisoned very quickly. Alcohol is absorbed very quickly by the canine or feline body, and symptoms may include ataxia (walking wobbly), vomiting, decreased body temperature, loss of consciousness, or difficulty breathing.

Onions and Garlic

If you'll be roasting some onion or garlic along with your Christmas meats, best to also keep these away from your pets as they contain a toxin which can cause damage to your dog's red blood cells. If enough red blood cells are destroyed, your dog could become anaemic, lethargic and weak.


While not a food, we thought we'd include this one in the list, as many people give and receive flowers around the holidays. Lily flower petals, pollen and leaves are extremely toxic to cats. The toxin found in Lily plants causes kidney failure. If possible, do not keep lilies in your house if you have a cat - it's just not worth the risk!


Most pet owners these days are fairly clued-in to the dangers of chocolate in pets. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both toxic to cats and dogs as they can't metabolise these compounds as well as humans can. Dark chocolate poses a higher risk than milk chocolate. Signs of chocolate toxicity may include vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, tremors, and coma.

The risk of chocolate toxicity directly depends on your pet's weight, how much they ate, and how dark it was. If your pet has ingested chocolate, you can calculate their risk of toxicity by inputting their weight, the type of chocolate, and how much was ingested into an online chocolate toxicity calculator.

Give your pets a treat of their own to keep their eyes of yours!

What better way to give your pet a gift under the Christmas tree that they'll actually appreciate! Dingo and Pooch Treats have a great range of Christmas treats this year, including a Christmas Cupcakes, Christmas Melting Snowman Cookies, Reindeer Treats, and even Christmas Stockings packed full of delicious treats your dog will love! Or perhaps you'd like to spoil your dog with a treat-and-toy gift pack? The Curious Pet Boxes contain toys, treats and other curiosities to keep your pet occupied this silly season. (This is also perfect for those people visiting a friend for Christmas who treats their pet like their child! You'll be in their good books for ages if you surprise them with a gift pack for their fur baby!)

Low-fat treats for the sensitive tummy and pudgy's out there

Just because your pet has a sensitive tummy or is on the heavy side doesn't mean they should miss out on all the fun! The Whimzees Natural Treats are vegetarian and gluten free, and are even suitable for most dogs with a history of pancreatitis (but just check with your vet first!). Another great low-fat alternative is the Savourlife Sweet Potato and Coconut Oil treat, which is suitable for most dogs with food allergies, as it is meat and grain-free. For a strictly low-calorie option, you might like to try the Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic Dog Treats, which are formulated specifically to support weight loss and maintenance.

Keep you pet occupied during the Christmas feast!

Dog Occupier treats are the perfect option for keeping your dog out of the way on Christmas day (such as during Christmas lunch!). Keeping your pet out of the way is perhaps the safest option if you don't trust members of your family not to sneak them some food under the table. ('But he looked like he was hungry! I didn't know that he would start vomiting! It was only a handful of ham fat and half a slice of chocolate cake!'). The Nature's Cuts Goat Horn is a long-lasting, natural chew that helps clean their teeth as they chew. Other great treats that will keep your pet busy include an Air-dried bone.

Lets not forget our feline friends!

While the occupier chews and rawhide treats are fine for cats, most felines won't go for them. Greenies are well-known for being highly palatable, and have just released three new flavours including catnip! Another tasty option is the range from Zeal, a New Zealand-made line of natural treats with Fish Skins. Or perhaps your cat has an ailment, such as stiff joints or dull fur? The treat range from Vetalogica has options that are infused with beneficial ingredients to support a specific health concern.

With all this information in mind you and your fur baby will have a happy and enjoyable Christmas free from any visits to the emergency vet.

From all of us at Heritage Vets and myself Princess Pearl we hope you and your families have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year! x

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