Common Christmas foods that are toxic for pets

Keep a careful eye on the festive foods and treats within reach of your pets this Christmas – some can be seriously hazardous to their health.

We often indulge in a few extra treats over the Christmas season – and while they probably won’t do us much damage, some popular festive foods can be seriously bad pets.

“Be mindful of foods left lying around and don’t give your pet too many treats,” advises Dr Leonie Richards, head of general practice at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Animal Hospital.

“Ask visitors not to feed your pet either.”

While certain foods, such as chocolate, have long been known to cause poisoning in dogs and cats, others such as grapes have emerged as potential dangers only in recent years.

So which Christmas foods should you avoid giving your pets?


The darker the chocolate, the worse it is for your dog or cat.

Chocolate contains methylxanthines, found in cacao seeds, which cause chocolate toxicity and even a single square of milk or dark chocolate can cause serious issues, particularly for dogs.

“Vomiting, diarrhoea, trembling and staggering are signs of chocolate toxicity,” says Dr Richards.

“Take your dog to the vet immediately so they can induce vomiting.”

Grapes, raisins and sultanas

Eaten fresh or in Christmas cakes and puddings, grapes, raisins or sultanas can cause kidney damage to dogs.

“We still don’t know why grapes, raisins and sultanas are harmful to some animals but even a very small amount can be very dangerous,” says Dr Sarah Zito, senior scientific officer at RSPCA Australia. Symptoms include vomiting, depression and not eating.


In dogs, macadamias can cause weakness, depression, vomiting and tremors that appear after about 12 hours and can last up to 48 hours.

While not usually fatal, your pet may feel unwell for a few days, says Dr Richards.

Onions and garlic

These can cause the breakdown of red blood cells, resulting in anaemia and they may also cause gastrointestinal upsets in cats and dogs.

“Foods containing garlic or onion powder, like gravy or baby food, or foods with garlic or onion added to them can also be a problem,” says Dr Zito.


This fruit is a problem for birds, rabbits, horses, donkeys, sheep and goats.

“They can cause weakness, depression, respiratory issues and cardiovascular damage,” says Dr Zito.

“Birds, horses and rodents are particularly sensitive.”

Avocado can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs, too.

Cooked bones and fatty meats

Cooked bones can splinter and cause choking or obstruction in the gut.

“Avoid giving pets fatty offcuts or skin from meat as the higher fat content can inflame the pancreas,” says Dr Richards.

Signs of pancreatitis include loss of appetite, sickness, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and dehydration.


This artificial sweetener is in some lollies and baked goods and is a hazard for dogs.

“It can lead to very low blood sugar that can result in seizure or death and can also cause liver damage,” says Dr Zito.

Vomiting, loss of co-ordination and lethargy are signs to look for.

What are healthy Christmas treats for pets?

The good news is that your pet doesn’t have to miss out on all the festive fun.

“Give your pet a small amount of lean cooked meat or a toy stuffed with their favourite food,” says Dr Zito.

“Or freeze a favourite food in small blocks so your dog can lick it in hot weather.

“For dogs, a small piece of crunchy carrot or apple, without the pips and core, is also healthy.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.