Have a good time at Christmas and New Year with your pet, but please be aware of some dangers around the festive season:


Sparkly, twinkly Christmas decorations can prove irresistible to the most inquisitive of pet. Shiny tinsel and ribbons can attract those playful cats, while baubles and other hanging decorations become appealing to dogs, all of which can cause problems if ingested. Close supervision of animals in decorated rooms, and ideally never leaving pets unattended around the tree will make sure it remains vertical and in one piece for the rest of the season!


Whether used to hang cards, decorations or wrapped around your turkey, string can be a serious hazard to pets if it gets trapped inside their intestines and may require surgery to remove the string. Cats love to play with string and dogs really like the meaty flavoured string from your turkey. Please ensure you dispose of all string immediately.



There are many potentially hazardous plants around over the Christmas period. 

Amaryllis, Poinsettias, Holly berries, Mistletoe and Yew are all irritants and potentially toxic to your pets if digested, with the most common signs seen include drooling, mouth sores, vomiting and diarrhoea. Even drinking the water from the base of your Christmas tree can cause these signs, especially if preservatives and fertilizers are used. Placing plastic covers/ bags over the base of the tree, and moving plants to areas where your pet is less inclined to have a nibble will help to reduce the risk of intoxication.


Be extra careful with Christmas lights as teething puppies and cats that like to play with string are at risk of chewing wires and cables which cause burns to the mouth and other signs relating to electrocution that could require hospitalisation. Similar information to Decorations and String (Days 1 & 2) can apply to reduce risk.


Alcohol consumption in pets can result in heart arrhythmias, tremors, seizures and even fatalities are a possibility in pets that are untreated after consuming alcohol. Keep your half empty tins or glasses out of reach as some pets love the taste. Don’t forget that cats can be attracted to drinks that have milk or cream based ingredients.

Surely another reason to finish the bottle to yourself?!

6. Chocolate

Chocolate is probably the most well-known toxic food to our pets, as it contains theobromine (similar to caffeine) which can cause increased heart rates, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and may die as a result. The amount of theobromine in chocolate depends on the type of chocolate consumed. As a general guideline, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine present, e.g. baking chocolate and cocoa contains more than milk and white chocolate. If you have any concern about chocolate consumption, it is worth a quick call to us for advice.

7. Sweets and Liquorice

It’s not just chocolate that can cause problems to our pets if consumed. Some sweets contain artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, which can cause blood glucose to drop resulting in the animal collapsing. Also, most sweets can cause a laxative effect, particularly in dogs, and results in presents on the kitchen floor that aren’t really asked for…

8. Grapes and Raisins

Exactly why these foods are poisonous is unknown, but ingesting these fruits can induce kidney failure in both dogs and cats. The amount required to produce such an effect differs in each individual, but can be as little as a small handful of raisins. Best rather be safe than sorry and stay clear of offering grapes- be it fresh or dried, such as in Christmas pudding.


9. Nuts

After digesting nuts, dogs may suffer from a variety of symptoms, including weakness, overheating and vomiting. Supportive therapy may be needed within 12 hours after eating nuts if the dog deteriorates. However, if caught early, the prognosis for recovery tends to be very good.

10. Festive Parties

Christmas is a time for celebrating and having time with family and friends. If you are planning a party don’t forget some pets will be anxious and distressed about the noise and the large number of people in your home. Always provide a quiet, safe place for them to relax and provide distractions such as new toy to help them to relax.

If you are concerned about the stresses over the festive period, please pop into one of our surgeries to discuss the situation. We might not be able to help you deal with the dreaded mother-in-law, but we can certainly try and help your furry friend!

11. Toy Parts

Parts from small children’s toys can be very dangerous to pets. Dogs in particular have a habit of picking up small toys. Some pieces may pass through if small enough and round, but can be deadly if they are larger than the size of the animal’s intestines as they can cause intestinal blockages; or parts that have sharp edges which can cause gut perforations. We advise that careful monitoring during the child’s (or big children’s) playtime, and to pick toys up after they have been played with.

If you have any worry about possible ingestion, give us a call as time can be of essence in these situations.

12. Festive Food

Whilst those pleading eyes are difficult to resist and therefore very tempting to treat your pet, it is safest to stick to their normal diet, as any major change in diet can cause intestinal upsets such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Any food high in fat or sugar, including table scraps and even festive pet treats can prove a little too much to a sensitive stomach. Be extra careful with leftover Christmas dinner as poultry bones splinter and can lead to mouth injuries or choking.

Having one less member of the family suffering from those Brussels sprouts must surely be a good thing?

Elliott Payne qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in London and joined us in 2012. Elliott obtained a previous degree in Animal Science from Reading University before becoming a vet student and seeing practice with Larkmead.He has a special interest in canine medicine and has two rescue dogs of his own, a foxhound cross called Hattie and a German Shepherd cross called Winston.