How to keep your dog safe over Christmas

While the festive season is a time of magic and excitement for us humans, it can be a dangerous time for pets, especially our dogs. In fact, video vet service, FirstVet, receives its highest number of calls from worried pet owners in December

To help us enjoy Christmas, and protect our beloved dogs from danger, we asked Dr Jessica May, Lead Vet at FirstVet, to share the biggest risks to dogs to be aware of this Christmas: 



We all love to indulge in lots of chocolate over Christmas, and so do our dogs if we’re not careful.  

Chocolate is very poisonous to dogs, so extra care must be taken when leaving our own treats around the house. We recommend keeping them on high surfaces and well out of reach of paws and noses. 


Dried fruit 

Dried grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants are often found in popular Christmas treats, such as festive cakes and stuffing, but they’re toxic for dogs.  

To avoid any mishaps, we advise keeping all festive treats out of reach, especially when leaving a mince pie (or two) out for Father Christmas! 



It is always tempting to slip our dog unwanted bits under the table or save them a delicious bone. However, smaller bones can be very dangerous and splinter when chewed, potentially causing intestinal blockages, constipation or dental issues.  

Try to only treat your dog with boneless meat to avoid any problems, and always remember to deduct this from their regular food allowance. Just like us, dogs need to watch their weight! 

christmas dog


Onions and garlic  

Our traditional Christmas feasts are often flavoured by sage and onion stuffing, but this should be kept well away from animals.  

As well as causing gastrointestinal problems, eating onions or garlic also damages red blood cells, which can result in anaemia. 


Christmas decorations 

We often focus on dogs eating foods that they shouldn’t, but Christmas decorations can be dangerous too, especially if you have a young puppy or playful dog that likes to chew or play with things.  

Most Christmas decorations are not toxic (unless they contain essential oils or certain foods), but they can present a danger if eaten.  

The main risk is an intestinal obstruction; however, occasionally we also see problems if the decoration has a high metal content as well. 



Similar to Christmas decorations, dogs see batteries as a fun toy to play with, by sending it back and forth along the floor and chasing it.  

However, if a battery is eaten it can have severe consequences by causing a physical obstruction in the intestine, potentially leading to poisoning.  

It is vital to never leave any batteries around, as is especially easy to do when setting up a new toy!  

christmas dog


Christmas plants  

Although we love our festive plants and flowers, we need to take extra care to know which ones are harmful to dogs.  

For example, ivy causes irritation in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, as well as causing a skin reaction. Mistletoe can cause abdominal discomfort and gastric irritation, while lilies and poinsettia are also toxic. 



Xylitol is one of the lesser known causes of toxicity in dogs but is extremely harmful. The substance is found in sugar-free chewing gum, sweets and chocolate. 

In smaller doses xylitol can cause a sudden, life threatening drop in blood sugar within minutes of being eaten. In larger doses it can cause severe damage to the liver, and lead to liver failure. 



Dogs can be very inquisitive, especially when something smells interesting. But be sure not to leave any alcoholic drinks on the floor, as consumption can cause depression of the central nervous system and vomiting.  

To ensure you are prepared for any problems your dog may have during Christmas, sign up for FirstVet, and you’ll be able to speak with a vet straight away if you think your dog has eaten something potentially toxic and harmful. The experienced, UK-registered vets are available 24 hours a day to provide diagnosis, advice and referrals to local clinics. 

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