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Festive Mischief

Festive Mischief


As November slips away we begin to focus on Christmas, for our canine friends this can be an exciting time, lots of different people arriving at the house, a lovely green tree thing with a wide variety of chewable and some non-chewable décor and then those presents carefully wrapped and placed under the tree just ready for busy noses to investigate.


During Christmas, it is very important to be aware of new and old dangers your dog can be exposed to, we’ve listed some that they might encounter here.


Christmas Trees

Even though Christmas trees for us are a source of seasonal fun they can be a danger to your dog. Pine needles are not digestible and can be mildly toxic. Fir tree oil can cause irritation to your dog’s stomach and mouth so best no chewed. The fir needles can block or damage the GI tract.  To help avoid these additional Christmas worries you can choose a Christmas tree that doesn’t shed, there are several different types now, or even better, select an artificial tree avoiding needles and more hoovering completely.

Fresh trees usually have water in the base to keep them alive in our warm houses over the festive period, many trees are treated with preservatives to prevent them dropping needles, the preservatives can leak into the water and creating a toxic drink for your inquisitive dog.  Keep the base covered maybe an additional plastic bag over the stand with a cable tie to make the water inaccessible.




When dogs eat grapes or raisins, the most serious health issue can be kidney failure which is life-threatening. Some of symptoms can include appetite loss, unusual weakness, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach discomfort which may be noticed as them looking around or licking their stomach area, also tensing when you stroke them in that area, thirst, and with vomiting and diarrhoea -dehydration.  Contact you vet for advice and guidance if you believe your dog has consumed grapes or raisins.

Many Christmas treats, include raisins or grapes and are therefore a danger for your dog. Although they might not be given to them knowingly, we all know many dogs are tempted by plates left unattended. Peeled and seedless grapes must be avoided too. That’s also why there is no specific volume that is acceptable and safe, so keep your mice pies at a distance.




Luckily alcohol isn’t a regular issue with dogs because the smell isn’t too appealing and it’s not so palatable to them either, although that makes me question why cow pats and long dead things are?

But there are cases when they’ll have a good go at it perhaps, mixed up with other flavours like alcohol-infused cakes or hot chocolate laced with a treat for us. Intoxication in dogs will depend on concentration. Because dogs are smaller than us the amount of alcohol, they consume will have a much greater impact.

Symptoms and signs of alcohol toxicity in dogs include lack of coordination, vomiting, anxiety and lethargy, disorientation, and retching, increased thirst, drooling, weakness, collapse, sluggish breathing…. Much of this sounds very familiar in human form but if you see these signs in your dog or know they’ve consumed alcohol seek veterinary advice quickly.




The toxicity level of chocolate and cocoa will depend on just how much is consumed, how much your dog weighs and the kind of chocolate that has been ingested. The molecule in chocolate that is poisonous to dogs and cats Theobromine, is metabolised very slowly, this pushes the concentration to toxic levels within the pet’s body. Dark chocolate, cocoa, and those that are marketed with higher % coco levels will have more theobromine, while white chocolate and milk chocolate have lower levels

call your vet as soon as possible if you know or suspect chocolate or coco has been consumed.

Small amounts of chocolate might lead to moderate stomach issues like vomiting or diarrhoea. Large amounts can produce hyperactivity, followed by trembling, arrhythmia, seizures, and that’s without taking the wrappers they’ve eaten in the process into consideration too.



Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives all have a compound called n-propyl disulphide that is harmful to dogs and can harm the red blood cells. Unlike with grapes where even a small amount can be harmful, in this case, with onions and the others, the consumed quantity matters. If your dog eats a little nothing will occur, but as with chocolate, it will depend on the size of your dog and if the compound has been accumulating within the system.

These tasty to human vegetables can lead to haemolytic anaemia, caused by damage to the red blood cells in dogs. Symptoms include weakness, lethargy, appetite loss, and pale-coloured gums. Your dog may also vomit, be restless, and pant. If you suspect your dog has eaten onion, garlic, and any of the other ones and you see some of the symptoms seek veterinary advice.



Many sugar-free foods include xylitol, an artificial sweetener, It is found in and used widely many daily items, for example, breath mints, some chewy vitamins, v toothpaste, dietary supplements, sugar-free desserts, sugar-free sweets, and chocolate bars (chocolate is bad enough for your dog without adding xylitol!).

In dogs, xylitol produces a strong release of pancreatic insulin. This in turn produces a strong and quick drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia). This can all happen within 10 to 60 minutes after ingesting the food containing xylitol. If left without treatment, hypoglycaemia as with people can be life threatening.

Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs are similar to chocolate and onions, throwing up plus symptoms related to hypoglycaemia, including reduced activity, weakness, staggering, lack of coordination, fainting, and seizures.  Any indication of these symptoms requires urgent Veterinary guidance.

So, our logic says, try to avoid leaving wrapped chocolate or food presents under the tree, they become too tempting for busy noses.   Food based tree decorations need to either be placed a little higher on the tree, out of standing on their back legs reach and most importantly know your dog.  Their behaviour won’t change just because its Christmas, if yours is a regular work surface or table thief plan ahead,  hide the chocolate and mince pies  keep them out of reach.

Have a happy festive season.






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