Christmas foods and treats you should definitely keep away from your pets over the holidays

Pets can enjoy Christmas too, but only with animal-friendly treats. Niall Carson / PA Images
  • As tempting as it might be to treat your pets to something extra over the holidays, you should be careful about what you’re feeding them.
  • There are several foods that could harm them. Decorations can also be a hazard.
  • Dr Jessica May, the lead vet at FirstVet, told Insider December is the month they receive the highest number of calls from worried pet owners.
  • She gave Insider a list of the foods and other festive items you should be careful about leaving around when you have an animal.
  • With dogs, it’s mostly food you have to worry about. Whereas with cats and small rodents, it’s the decorations that will get them in trouble.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The festive holidays are time for everyone to over-indulge. But if you’re going to treat your pet to something extra this year, there are some foods you should avoid because they are not good for our furry friends’ health.

Dr Jessica May, the lead vet at FirstVet, told Insider December is the month they receive the highest number of calls from worried pet owners.

She said you don’t always have to worry, but to avoid unwanted surprises, these are the foods and other festive items you should be careful about leaving around when you have an animal.

It’s mostly food you have to worry about if you have a dog

“Chocolate, as many of us know, is toxic to dogs,” said May. “As dogs are excellent at finding their way to food items they shouldn’t, extra care should be taken when storing chocolatey Christmas treats or presents around the house.”

Dried fruit is a lesser-known poison for dogs. Grapes, raisins, sultanas, and currants are particularly toxic, May said.

“As many of these are found in common Christmas treats, such as festive cakes or stuffing, take extra care to keep dogs away from them,” she said. “We advise against leaving a mince pie out for Santa, too. Even if your dog is carefully locked in their crate overnight, they can be brilliant escape artists, especially when they can smell nose-level foods.”

Be careful about disposing of bones as well. As smaller ones can splinter and break when chewed, it’s best not to treat dogs to the leftover turkey carcass because it could lead to dental problems, or even hurt their intestines.

With cats, it’s the decorations that are more problematic

It’s well known that cats love to climb Christmas trees. But May said this can be dangerous if their claws get stuck or they fall.

They’re also known to be drawn to decorations light tinsel and hanging lights.

“These are usually fine to play with, but can be dangerous if eaten, especially if the decoration has a high metal content,” May said. “To avoid your cat playing with these items whilst you are out of the house, it is best to discourage them from interacting with them at all, placing them safely out of reach.”

You should also be careful about any flowers you receive from friends and family. If a bouquet contains lilies, you shouldn’t leave them out because they are toxic to cats and can cause kidney issues.

“Inquisitive cats may also find their way towards scented candles or reed diffusers,” said May. “The liquid in reed diffusers can be a particularly big risk, as it often contains a variety of dangerous ingredients, including essential oils and ethanol.”

If you do find your cat with their paws deep in the liquid, you should rinse it straight away with soap and warm water, but it’s likely to still cause a reaction to their skin.

Cat christmas tree

The safest place for small pets like guinea pigs and rabbits is their hutch

It might be tempting to decorate your small pet’s cage with tinsel, but May said this is a bad idea because they might pull it through through the cars and nibble on it.

It’s also important to watch them at all times when they’re outside their enclosure, because they will investigate any decorations you have lying around.

“Be mindful about letting any rodent pets near your Christmas tree because pine sap is toxic to small rodents, meaning that they shouldn’t come into contact with it,” May added.

Birds may try to escape during the Christmas madness

If you have a bird, you should be careful letting them near Christmas trees because it might have been sprayed in toxic insecticides.

“Tree sap can also get stuck to feathers, which can cause distress,” said May. “So it’s best to keep birds away from them from day one.”

With family and friends coming and going, birds might take the opportunity to escape, so you should make sure windows are left closed, May said. You should also be careful about the kinds of nibbles that are left around, she added.

“Salty nuts can be harmful and pose a choking hazard, and alcohol could leave you with an intoxicated parrot and a vet bill,” she said. “If your parrot will be exploring the household over Christmas, be sure to keep edible items covered.”

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