Family pets can be as curious as children when it comes to holiday decorations, foods, and visitors and it is no surprise that the Christmas period is one of the busiest times of the year for the Helpline. Please keep your pets safe over the holidays and watch out for the following dangers.

Grapes, sultanas and raisins – Found in fruit cakes, mince pies, Christmas puddings and raisin toast. Ingestions in dogs can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and potentially severe kidney damage.

Chocolate – Contains methylxanthines which are toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestions of small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhoea but large ingestions can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias. The risk of toxicity is dependent on many factors including the size of your pet, the amount and type of chocolate ingested.

Alcohol – Many popular Christmas beverages contain variable quantities of alcohol. Pets may help themselves to alcohol left unattended and are highly susceptible to its effects, with intoxication seen with even small ingestions. Intoxication in small animals may be associated with drowsiness, unsteadiness and in severe cases low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma. Dogs are particularly attracted to sweet creamy alcoholic beverages and will sometimes drink large quantities of them if they are given the chance to do so.

Macadamia Nuts – Often found in biscuits or even eaten as a decadent Christmas snack, these nuts are toxic to dogs and cause hind limb lameness, pain, and weakness. Other nuts, whilst not truly toxic to dogs, contain lots of natural fats that can trigger pancreatitis if ingested in large amounts.

Onions and Garlic – Plants in the Allium genus contain compounds called disulfides and thiosulphates that can be toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. The severity can range from minor gastrointestinal effects to a potentially serious, life-threatening anaemia.

Xylitol – A real killer, many sugarless gums and lollies contain xylitol as a sweetener. It may also be found in baked goods. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and possibly liver failure in dogs.

Christmas Plants – As fun as it is to be festive for the season, holiday plants can potentially be toxic to your pets. Whilst most plant exposures result in only mild effects, some plants such as lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.), Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) can cause severe effects following even small ingestions.

Beach Dangers – Includes beached puffer fish and blue bottles to name a few. Many dogs are very inquisitive and will approach these dangerous creatures in the blink of an eye.

Snakes – With the warmer weather, snake sightings are becoming more frequent and when attacked or provoked, by dogs especially, can bite. Australian snakes are amongst the most venomous in the world and all bites should be treated as life-threatening.