Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your pets from everyone at Avenue Veterinary Centre! We hope that you will enjoy the festive season, but are you aware that there may be some potential hazards for pets at this time of year?


Chocolate contains a chemical called Theobromine, which although safe for humans is very toxic to dogs and cats. It is important to get your pet to the vets if it has accidently eaten chocolate as they may need to be made sick! Chocolate poisoning can be fatal and can cause seizures, muscle tremors, heart and abdominal problems. Make sure that chocolate is stored out of pets’ reach and not given to pets as treats!

christmas chocolate

Grapes, raisins and sultanas

These are very harmful to pets and if eaten can cause kidney failure, particularly in dogs. Early signs can include vomiting. It is again very important to get your pet to the vet if a quantity of grapes has been eaten, even if your pet is not showing any signs of an adverse reaction yet. If you are unlucky enough to have had your pet ingest sultanas, grapes or raisins then please contact the surgery as soon as possible as your pet may need to be made sick to stop them being digested.



Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is found in small amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables. However it is also extracted commercially and used as a sweetener in low carbohydrate and diabetic products. These products include baked goods such as cakes and biscuits, including some that may be eaten around Christmas time. Xylitol can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure.


Allium species (onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives)

Onions and garlic are often used in cooking and even if they are cooked can prove very harmful to pets. They can cause sickness and diarrhoea and even have the potential to cause the destruction of red blood cells (haemolytic anaemia). Beware of them in food products at Christmas like stuffing and gravy.



The milky white sap from the popular Christmas plant, Poinsettia is poisonous to animals and can cause signs including: drooling, lethargy and skin irritation. Please display away from animals.



Some nuts (e.g. peanuts, macademia nuts) may cause vomiting/diarrhea but potentially also more severe signs affecting the nervous system or muscles. Beware also of chocolate-coated nuts.


Mouldy food (e.g. bread or cheese)

These can be very harmful including causing muscle tremors and potentially seizures.

Potential ‘foreign bodies’

If your pet eats items such as Christmas decorations or wrapping paper this may cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea but in the worst case scenario an obstruction may occur in their stomach or intestines – this is especially the case if a cat tries to eat some tinsel for example.


Holly, ivy and mistletoe

Traditional Christmas plants such as holly, ivy and mistletoe may cause drooling or vomiting in dogs and cats.

holly ivy

Weather-related hazards

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol): this is poisonous to both dogs and cats causing kidney failure.  Even a small lick is usually fatal in cats as the lethal dose is very small.  All suspected cases should be treated with a matter of urgency, which includes aggressive fluid therapy as well as other possible treatments.


Poisoning from human medications that may be used more during cold periods, e.g. paracetamol (acetaminophen), aspirin and other ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ (e.g. ibuprofen); and over-the-counter decongestants (e.g. containing imidazoline compounds).

Remember prevention is better…. Wishing you and your pets a safe and Merry Christmas!