Harmful Christmas Treats

Author: Amy Holloway

If you’ve ever wondered if giving your dog ‘just a little bit’ of mince pie or chocolate cake is ok, think again. Are you concerned if your dog takes a sip from your beer or wine? You should be….

Here are 9 festive treats that your dog should most definitely avoid:

If your dog consumes any of the foods or drinks below, it’s important to contact us immediately for advice or come directly to one of our practices.  

1. Chocolate

Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine that is poisonous to dogs. The severity of the effects can depend on the size of dog and the amount and type of chocolate they have eaten. Symptoms emerge 4–24 hours after ingestion and can include vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, hyperactivity and seizures. Chocolate poisoning can be fatal, so you must act quickly. 

We advise you should not give your dog any chocolate, but if they do manage to get hold of some, these guidelines should help you:

Theobromine doses in the region of 100-150 mg/kg bodyweight are toxic to dogs.

Approximate amount of theobromine in 25grams of chocolate.

  • Dry cocoa powder – 800 mg theobromine.
  • Unsweetened (baking) chocolate – 390-450 mg theobromine.
  • Semi-sweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate  – contains 150-160 mg theobromine.
  • Milk chocolate – generally contains 44-64 mg theobromine, however, some brands inject higher levels of theobromine into milk chocolate.
  • White chocolate –  theobromine is not naturally present, however, many brands inject theobromine into white chocolate so it could contain the same amount of theobromine as milk or dark chocolate.

To be clear, a large Cadbury Dairy Milk bar weighs 850grams. A regular one person sized bar weighs 45g.

A Labrador weighing in at around 30kg, would be expected to have a fatal toxic reaction if they had eaten 500grams of dark chocolate or 170grams of baking chocolate.  For milk and white chocolate, this would depend on how much theobromine has been added to the chocolate. If you are concerned about your dog, you should contact us immediately.

2. Alcohol

This is much more toxic to dogs than humans. Even small amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of coordination, depression, tremors, coma or death.

3. Caffeine

Whereas this might not be a typical Christmas treat, most of us drink tea or coffee on a daily basis. Pets are much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than we are and while a couple of laps of tea, coffee or soda doesn’t contain enough caffeine to cause poisoning in the majority of pets, tea bags or 1-2 diet pills could easily be fatal to cats or small dogs.

3. Raisins, currants and grapes

These fruits are toxic to dogs, whether eaten alone or in cakes and puddings. Symptoms can take several days to appear and include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and excessive drinking.

4. Fruit pips and stones

Most dogs love fruit but should only be given it in moderation and be sure to remove all pips and stones first. Many fruit stones and pips such as apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum, and apricot contain cyanide, which is poisonous. However, the biggest danger which probably poses the greater risk is an intestinal / oesophageal blockage, and that’s why this is on our list.

5. Mince pies

Mince pies might taste exceedingly good, however, they are full of dangerous fats and sugars that can clog up your pet’s arteries, and they contain dried fruit such as raisins, spices and sometimes alcohol.

6. Macadamia nuts & walnuts

Macadamia nut toxicosis can cause neurological symptoms, weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and a high temperature in dogs. Signs develop within 12 hours and can last 12–48 hours but should be treated immediately. Walnuts may contain mycotoxins that also cause neurological symptoms and seizures, as well as causing gastric problems.

7. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is used in and on a lot of desserts. If your dog ingests a large amount in powder form or via an essential oil, they could suffer from diarrhoea, liver disease, vomiting and low blood sugar. Dogs that eat too much can even die, so keep those pies and jars of the stuff out of reach.

8. Rhubarb

Don’t give your dog any rhubarb and crumble leftovers under any circumstances. Apart from the digestive problems that could be caused by the high fat and sugar content, rhubarb stalk (and leaves) is actually toxic to dogs.

Ask us about toxic food and drink

What to do in an emergency

If your pet has consumed any of these foods or drinks, contact our Emergency Care Service immediately, on 01527 889810 even if it’s out of hours – we have emergency cover throughout the holidays. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear as early treatment is critical. Tell us how much of the item your pet has consumed and bring the packaging to our Bromsgrove surgery if you are advised that your pet needs to be seen by a Vet.

Other articles in this series:

FESTIVE PET TIPS – Keep your house tidy and your pet happy this Christmas

FESTIVE PET TIPS:  Don’t forget about your pet this Christmas

FESTIVE PET TIPS – 7 Christmas dinner foods that are harmful to your pet