SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Keeping pets safe at Christmas

Please be extra vigilant about what your pets eat over the Festive season. Don’t share human food with your pets and think twice about leaving food in places that might be easily accessible to pets.

Many common treats and snacks we humans enjoy as part of our holiday celebration – including avocado, macadamia nuts, ham, grapes and raisins – can cause internal damage and in serious cases lead to death.

It’s important to know that ignoring your pets’ pleading faces and smooches is actually in their best interest. Dogs and cats digest and metabolise food differently to humans so what might be perfectly fine for us can be poisonous to them.

Even pet owners who are careful about what they feed their pet need to be aware about the places their pet might find a feast. Handbags, gifts under the tree, food left on tables and in rubbish bags are common places where pets will often steal foods that can make them sick.

Most people know that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, but there are actually an array of popular festive ingredients that your pet’s bodies are simply not designed to eat. Pets can get into food they’re not supposed to eat very quickly, so we have to be extra vigilant at this time of year.

Although Christmas is the season of giving, there are plenty of other ways to spoil your pets.

You can freeze pet food or put it into toys so your pets can gradually extract the food. A walk or games in the garden after a big meal is also a great way to make sure your pet gets the attention they need and to fight your own after-meal lethargy.

Please remember: if you think your pet has eaten something dangerous you should immediately call your local vet clinic.

Ten foods unsafe for pets

  1. Fruit cake or Christmas pudding as the raisins (and grapes) are deadly to cats and dogs. They are toxic to their kidneys and can cause lethargy, excessive thirst, vomiting and in serious cases can be fatal.
  2. Alcohol and coffee are both toxic for dogs.
  3. Avocados contain persin causing vomiting, diarrhoea and heart congestion in dogs.
  4. For cats and dogs, chocolate can cause elevated heart rate, seizures, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  5. Macadamia nuts contain a toxin that can inhibit movement and cause panting, weakness and swollen limbs.
  6. Onions and chives contain disulphides and sulfoxides, which can cause anaemia and damage red blood cells.
  7. Peaches, plums and persimmons and apple pips contain a substance that degrades to cyanide.
  8. Xylitol – a common ingredient in sugarless treats and sugarless gum is dangerous.
  9. Sweet-corn cobs can cause blockages in the small intestine that may need to be removed surgically. Don’t let your dog chew on the cob.
  10. Turkey skin, pork crackling, sausages and fatty meats not only add extra calories but can lead to intense pain due to pancreatitis.
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