• Lewis Hunt

Christmas Foods That Ruin a Pet’s Christmas

Updated: Feb 13

I’m lucky enough to work as a veterinarian on the Northern Beaches, looking after people’s dogs, cats and rabbits, as well as our sick and injured wildlife. As a result of this year’s COVID pandemic, many more people have been working from home and found they now have the time to dedicate to a family dog. Take a stroll around the traps and you can’t help but notice all the puppies enjoying the Northern Beaches lifestyle. But as we enter the festive season, and stock our homes with an array of delicious foods, I thought it would be worth discussing some of the common culprits that are toxic, and potentially life-threatening, for our four-legged friends.

Lewis with 4month old Labradoodle, Murphy


Like us, most dogs love chocolate and can smell it long before they see it. The major toxin in chocolate is theobromine. The amount of theobromine varies greatly with the type of chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine). The clinical signs of chocolate toxicity vary from gastro-intestinal signs (diarrhoea and vomiting) through to seizures, and in severe cases, even death. I had a gorgeous Labrador puppy in last week after his owners suspected he had eaten all the chocolate from the advent calendar. After making him vomit he brought up all the chocolates (as well as most of the wrapping and cardboard) and had a very guilty look on his face.

Christmas ham

Unfortunately, I see more cases of gastritis and pancreatitis in the weeks following Christmas than at any other time of the year. Most owners will tell me they fed their pet the leftovers from the Christmas ham and their dog became ill in the following days. The high-fat content of this meat can cause pancreatitis, particularly in dogs who are not used to such a rich meal.

Grapes, raisins, sultanas and currents

If eaten, these can cause acute renal failure and death in dogs. The unusual thing about grape toxicity is that not all dogs are affected, and the toxicity does not appear to be dose dependent. This means some dogs can eat a whole bunch of grapes and not be affected, whereas others may only eat a few and end up developing kidney failure.

Onions, garlic and chives

These plants contain compounds which when metabolized by dogs can cause damage to red blood cells. You will notice that your dog seems depressed, lethargic and may have pale gums. For this reason, you should avoid feeding your dog foods such as gravy, if they include onions or garlic.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive; these are just some of the potentially harmful foods that dogs may decide to sample over the festive period. Others include Macadamia nuts, avocado, mango seeds and corn cobs.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous please contact your local vet immediately, as rapid veterinary attention may be lifesaving for your dog.