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24 Dec 2020

Six festive foods you should never feed your dog - plus the houseplants that can be harmful

How to keep your furry friends safe from tempting tidbits that could be toxic
Little girl feeding a dog at Christmas

Part of being a responsible dog owner is knowing what not to feed them. Certain foods can lead to illness, seizures and even death, so it's best to avoid sharing tidbits from your plate if you don't know for certain whether it's safe.

If 2020 is the year you welcomed a furry companion into your home for the first time, make sure you know the festive foods that spell danger for dogs.

We've teamed up with the Blue Cross to reveal the foods to keep away from your pets - and what to do if they've already eaten something.

Plus, if you're planning to deck your halls with greenery this festive season - or gift it to others - we reveal the common houseplants that could pose problems for your pup.

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The most dangerous Christmas foods for dogs

1. Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives

onions in a basket

These all belong to the allium plant family, which is poisonous to dogs.

They can cause sickness and, more worryingly, damage to the red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia.

So definitely no stuffing for Fido!

2. Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts

A bowl of nuts is traditional festive snacking fare for many, but make sure you store macadamia nuts well away from prying paws.

They can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness.

3. Chocolate

Dark chocolate

Keep that Christmas chocolate tub safely stowed - chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical which is toxic to dogs and can cause agitations, tremors and problems with the heart.

The darker the chocolate the more potent the theobromine levels become, so take extra care with this. White chocolate doesn't contain enough to be toxic but will still make your dog feel sick.

4. Mince pies and Christmas puddings

Mince pies and Christmas pudding

Don't try to palm off unwanted pud on your pooch. Both mince pies and Christmas puddings contain grapes and dried fruits such as currants, sultanas and raisins that are highly toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause severe kidney failure.

5. Xylitol (artificial sweetener)

Sugar alternative Xylitol is found in lots of things including sweets, baked goods and peanut butter.

Xylitol can induce the release of insulin in dogs, resulting in low blood sugar and sometimes liver damage. Always check the ingredients before letting dogs in on your festive snacks.

6. Ageing leftovers

leftover food on a Christmas dinner table

Some dogs can sniff out a leftover mound of cheese a mile off, so make sure you keep leftovers well out of reach.

Mould that grows in foods such as yoghurt, bread and cheese can produce toxins that cause convulsions in dogs.

Safe Christmas foods for dogs

It's not all bad news for pooches. There are still plenty of delicious safe foods that they can tuck into, including:

  • Some meat and fish - turkey meat (no skin or bones), salmon (fillets or cooked in spring water are preferable to smoked salmon), and lamb meat (no bones) are fine. As is scrambled eggs, if that's a Christmas breakfast classic for you
  • Festive veg - green beans, brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots, peas and swede pose no problem, as long as they aren't slathered in butter, fat or oil
  • Potatoes - mashed potato (best without additional butter), new potatoes and sweet potatoes are OK

If your dog has any health issues or allergies, make sure you check with your vet that the foods above are safe for them to eat.

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Houseplants that can be harmful to dogs

It's not just foods you need to be careful of. Some houseplants can also cause vomiting and stomach upsets if ingested.

So, if you're planning on gifting greenery to owners of curious pets this Christmas you might want to avoid the following festive options:

  • Poinsettia - can cause stomach irritation and sometimes vomiting
  • Holly - may result in a stomach upset
  • Mistletoe - may result in a stomach upset
  • Christmas trees - a mild stomach upset if dogs eat pine needles, but the sharp tip can cause more damage internally
  • Ivy - can cause a stomach upset. Where there is prolonged skin contact, Hedera species can also cause both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis
  • Eucalyptus - vomiting, diarrhoea, and weakness. In large quantities, it may also cause seizures
  • Tulips - vomiting, depression, diarrhoea, hyper-salivation and loss of appetite
  • Lillies - vomiting and irritated lips and tongue
  • Hyacinth - intense vomiting, diarrhoea and tremors

If you or a loved one with a pet has developed a love for houseplants during lockdown, it's worth being aware that plenty of popular everyday houseplants are toxic to pets. These include:

  • Snake plant - a common houseplant, popular for its low-maintenance drought-tolerant properties, this plant can cause diarrhoea and oral irritation if eaten, as well as dermatitis, tremors, seizures, loss of balance and asphyxiation. Can be fatal
  • Aloe Vera - can irritate the digestive system if eaten
  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) - can result in burning/swelling of the mouth and tongue as well as difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and increased salivation. In some cases it can cause breathing difficulties and even death
  • Elephant Ear - may result in increased salivation or drooling, vomiting, and difficulty with swallowing
  • Zamioculca - diarrhoea and vomiting

For a full list of potentially toxic plants, head to the Dog's Trust.

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Safe houseplants for dogs

Spider plant

While we wouldn't recommend letting your dog eat any type of houseplant, inquisitive pups can't be watched 24 hours a day. Stay safe and opt for a non-toxic plant instead. These include:

  • Banana plant
  • Spider plant
  • Orchid
  • Calathea
  • Haworthia
  • Bromeliad
  • Polka dot plant

What to do if your dog eats something it shouldn't

A dog being checked over by a vet

What you need to do depends on what and how much your dog's eaten. So it's always best to get professional advice straight away.

Caroline Reay, senior vet at Blue Cross, said: 'The festive season presents a world of hidden dangers to our pets, from toxic foods to dangerous seasonal plants. Even small amounts can cause serious problems for our pets.

'So if they do eat or drink anything they shouldn't over the holidays, then do contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.'

Blue Cross Christmas dinner appeal - help the Blue Cross give pets a special Christmas dinner this year by donating £3.