The festive season can be a busy time of year for humans, but it’s also a very busy time for our pets.  Festive social events are invariably associated with tasty foods, often placed within reach of companion animals which – if not kept under observation – tend to help themselves. Unfortunately, many festive foods are potentially dangerous to pets.  Dr Anne Fawcett from the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science offers her advice for caring for your pets this festive season.  Here is a list of dangerous foods for pets to watch out for.

Dangerous foods for pets

  • Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are toxic and potentially fatal to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.
  • Grapes, raisins, and sultanas can cause irreversible kidney failure in dogs and need to be kept well out of reach. For the same reason, animals should not be fed or have access to mincemeat pies or fruit cakes/loafs.
  • Fatty foods like cheese, ham, pork crackling, bacon, turkey skin, lamb, sausages and the gristle off your steak can lead to nasty diarrhoea but may also trigger life-threatening pancreatitis in some pets.
  • Bones can cause constipation, especially if animals aren’t used to eating these, and cooked bones can shatter, causing perforation of the intestines.
  • Onions and garlic can be toxic to dogs and cats, and lead to life-threatening anaemia. Onion toxicity can occur in dogs who have ingested a single onion bhaji, or those who simply eat the onions off the barbecue (risking scalding in the process).
  • Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and can cause dramatic clinical signs including blindness. In small dogs and cats, nuts can also cause gastrointestinal obstruction.
  • Food scraps and garbage can be very tempting to dogs and cats. Double bag the rubbish and keep it well out of reach of pets, which have been known to eat kebab skewers, cutlery, plastic kitchen wrap and compost.
  • Dietary change alone is enough to cause vomiting and diarrhoea in some pets. If you are taking your pets along with you on holidays or to parties, bring their regular diet.
  • Ingestion of most parts of the lily plant, including flowers and leaves, can cause irreversible kidney damage in cats. Cats seen licking or eating lilies should be taken to a veterinarian as an emergency.
  • Do not leave food gifts under the Christmas tree. Pets have been known to steal and unwrap food gifts.

What to do

If you see your pet eat something that is potentially toxic, take them to your local or emergency veterinarian immediately as your vet may be able to induce vomiting. This can prevent surgery later on, but it needs to be done immediately as there is a short window of time (sometimes as little as 30 minutes) where this is effective.

If your pet ate a food item, bring any packaging with you. If it is a plant item, bring the plant or take a photo of the plant including flowers and leaves to assist in identification.