Steer your dog clear of Christmas cheer

PUBLISHED: 18:30 16 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:08 28 November 2012



The dangers of dogs getting their paws on Xmas goodies

Our expert vet is Vicky Payne. She is a keen beater and a qualified vet specialising in gundogs, as well as the NOBS veterinary advisor. Here she writes about the dangers of dogs getting their paws on Xmas goodies


Steer your dog clear
of Christmas cheer


Dogs can ingest toxins all year round but some poisonings are more common in the winter and around the festive season. Several festive foods pose a risk to gundogs who live indoors and parties and presents increase the chance of food being where a dog can get hold of it.


A well known poison, but every Christmas, vets see dogs who have overindulged, often due to gifts containing chocolate being left under the tree, where gundog noses can easily find them. Dogs can’t metabolise the theobromide in chocolate leading to a racing heart, muscle tremors and even coma and death. High quality dark chocolate is most dangerous with just 3oz potentially fatal to a terrier.


A less well known but serious toxin if eaten in quantity. I have seen a labrador die after eating a Christmas cake; another died after raiding the pantry and eating a packet of dried fruit. Early signs include vomiting and diarrhoea but without aggressive fluids, the dog will die of kidney failure in two or three days. There are reports of small dogs dying after eating just a few grapes.

Macadamia nuts

These expensive nuts are often a Christmas treat. Ingestion of even small quantities can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. Though usually short lived, it is obviously distressing.

AlcoholWatch out for dogs draining dregs from glasses after shoot lunches or festive parties. Small amounts will cause drunkenness; moderate amounts cause vomiting, dehydration and a next day hangover but larger amounts could cause coma and death.

Other dangers

In addition, care should be taken to keep dogs away from turkeys which are being left to rest, party nibbles and so on. While these foods may not be poisonous, cooked bones present a real risk of perforating the gut and large amounts of unusual food will at best cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but at worst could cause a gastric torsion.

What to do in a crisis

If you see your dog eat something it shouldn’t, you can try to make it sick. Trickling a spoon of strong salt water solution onto the back of the tongue or placing a few washing soda (beware of confusion with caustic soda!!) crystals there should cause vomiting. If you don’t have any to hand, then call the vet as soon as possible. If your dog has eaten a poison, give your vet as much detail as you can on how much of what he has eaten and how long ago.



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