Christmas care guide

What to watch out for, and suggestions for the perfect pet-friendly gift

Christmas is a great time to be with friends, family and pets. Amid the festivities, don’t forget that some traditions can cause issues for your pet, including toxic treats and a stressful household.

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Food and drink

Food plays a big role in Christmas celebrations, but did you know that many of the nation’s favourite Christmas treats are toxic to pets? Make sure to keep kitchen cupboards closed, use a sturdy food waste bin that can’t be tipped over, and always clean up any spillages and crumbs.

Pigs in blankets and gravy are fatty and salty and, if eaten in large quantities, can cause pancreatitis in pets. This is where the pancreas becomes inflamed, resulting in vomiting, loss of appetite and stomach pain.

Raisins and sultanas are highly toxic and can cause kidney issues, so keep mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake well out of paw’s reach.

Onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and chives are all members of the allium family and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even anaemia in pets. Avoid feeding pets things like stuffing and onion gravy.

While it may be tempting to give your dog leftover turkey bones, their brittle nature and risk of splintering make them highly dangerous to your pet’s digestive system.

Several nuts, including macadamia nuts and walnuts, can cause lethargy, high temperature, tremors and stomach upset, so always keep them out of the way of inquisitive pets.

Nutmeg is often used to add spice to festive treats but it’s highly poisonous to pets and can result in tremors and seizures.

Perhaps one of the most well-known toxic treats is chocolate, and it’s in abundance around the Christmas period. Chocolate contains the toxic compound theobromine and eating large amounts of it can be fatal, so it’s essential you keep it wrapped up and out of the way.

It goes without saying that alcohol is bad news for pets. It affects them in a similar way to humans, causing drowsiness and lack of coordination, but it can also dramatically lower their body temperature and blood sugar levels, leading to seizures and comas.

Rawhide is a treat commonly given to dogs and it can keep them occupied for hours. But be aware that these chews can actually pose a choking risk for strong-jawed dogs, as large chunks can break off and become lodged in their throat or in other parts of their digestive system.

If your pet does eat any of these festive toxins, call your local vet straight away for advice. All Medivet 24-hour emergency centres are open throughout the Christmas holidays.


Pet-friendly Christmas snacks

Don’t worry, there are a few parts of your Christmas dinner you can share with your pet. Always give these tasty titbits in moderation and reduce the amount of pet food you give them that day to maintain a healthy weight.

Dogs and cats can have:

  • a slice of plain, cooked, white turkey meat
  • a small piece of plain, cooked, boneless salmon
  • raw carrots
  • plain brussels sprouts
  • plain boiled parsnips.


Rabbits can have:

  • raw carrots
  • raw brussels sprouts
  • raw parsnips
  • raw peas
  • fresh rosemary, thyme and sage


Care in a busy household

The weeks around Christmas become a hive of activity for many households, with family get-togethers, parties and more time off work. While some pets may love the extra attention and excitement, others can find the experience highly stressful, particularly cats and house rabbits.

If you’re expecting a busy household, create a safe space for your pet in a quiet room and fill it with their water and food bowls, toys and bedding. This gives them a calm place of refuge to retreat to when things get too much. You may also want to invest in calming scent diffusers which release pheromones to help your pet relax.

Don’t forget to let friends, family and young children know that your pet might be feeling anxious and may not want to socialise. Encourage them to leave them be and never disturb them while they’re eating or sleeping.

It’s also important to stick as closely as possible to your regular routine of exercise and feeding. This gives your pet a sense of security amid the chaos and ensures their daily needs are being met.


Pet-friendly gifts

Share the festive fun with your pet with some of these pet-friendly gifts and treats.

For dogs:

  • Rope toy
  • Football
  • Frisbee
  • Treat-stuffed chew toy
  • New bed
  • Aniseed toys (this festive spice is the catnip equivalent for dogs)
  • Nylon chew toy


For cats:

  • Cat teaser toy
  • Catnip toys
  • Scratching post
  • Ping pong balls
  • Leftover cardboard boxes
  • Play tunnel
  • New bed


For rabbits:

  • Play tunnel
  • Willow or apple tree sticks
  • Leftover toilet or kitchen roll tubes
  • Leftover brussels sprouts (uncooked)

For more advice about keeping your pet safe during the holidays, speak to your Medivet practice.

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