Tips for Your Pet and the Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us once again. The dazzling lights of the tree and decorations provide even the most well-behaved pets with the opportunity to get into some trouble.

Cats are unusually attracted to decorations, ribbons and tinsel – all the adornments we display in celebration. However, if any of this foreign material gets ingested, it can cause a bowel obstruction that may require surgery. Dogs are more interested in the copious amounts of food that always accompany any holiday celebration. So we have compiled a list of DON’TS for your furry family members.


Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine – a bit like caffeine, which is poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine depends on the type of chocolate. Theobromine mainly affects the guts, heart, central nervous system, kidneys and can even cause death.


While the toxic substance in grapes is unknown, it can cause kidney failure in sensitive animals. Dogs that already have underlying health problems are at a greater risk. Just one raisin can be severely toxic. Experts agree that there is no “safe dose” of grapes/raisins.


The artificial sweetener xylitol is found in many foods, including some sugar-free gums, diabetic cakes and diet food. It causes insulin release in many species leading to potentially fatal hypoglycemia. Dogs are extremely sensitive, and even small quantities are considered toxic. Some sugar-free gums and sweets have very high amounts per piece. Early symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination. Seizures may also occur. If you think your dog has eaten any xylitol, seek urgent veterinary care immediately.


Onions are particularly toxic, and signs of poisoning often only occur days after your dog or cat has eaten them. All forms of onions can be an issue; raw, dehydrated, and cooked. Be cautious of onion powder/garlic powder in prepared foods, as well.


Alcohol is significantly more toxic to dogs and cats than humans. When consumed, even small quantities of alcoholic beverages may cause vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma and even death.

Mouldy Foods/Green Bin

Mouldy food, including bread, nuts and dairy products, contain lots of toxins that could make your dog very ill. Make sure you dispose of leftovers carefully and keep your food waste bin out of reach.


While feeding your dog bones may seem like a nice treat, it’s important to remember that dogs may choke on them, develop intestinal obstructions after swallowing pieces of bones or damage their teeth chewing on them. Bone splinters can also puncture your dog’s digestive tract.

Macadamia Nuts

Within 12 hours of ingestion, macadamia nuts can cause dogs to experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and increased body temperature. If you suspect your dog has eaten macadamia nuts, note the amount eaten and contact your veterinarian.

Dairy Products/Blue Cheese

As dogs do not have significant amounts of lactase that breaks down lactose in milk, feeding your dog milk and other milk-based products can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset. Blue cheeses are particularly dangerous because they contain a substance called roquefortine C, which dogs are especially sensitive to. If you suspect any amount of blue cheese has been consumed, you should seek emergency veterinary assistance immediately.

If you feel your pet may be at risk for ingestion of any of the above, contact the nearest vet or emergency clinic right away.

Stay safe and enjoy the Holidays with your furry friends and family!

Written by Annette Ferguson and Hanna Richardson