Unsafe foods for dogs

The festive season is here, which means… food! While we’re indulging in chocolate, alcohol and Aunty Karen’s Christmas Cake, we’re pretty distracted and may not notice our four legged companion sneak a treat themselves. It’s important to be aware of the health risks our Christmas lunch can cause our pets. We’ve put together a list of common festive foods that should be kept out of your pet’s reach.

I want to listen to you but I’m thinking about snacks.


Most of us are aware of the dangers of chocolate, and certain types of chocolate are more dangerous than others e.g. the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous for dogs. We all know there’s usually plenty of this around at Christmas – advent calendars, gifts, treats, Mum’s secret stash. Chocolate contains Theobromine which, when ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures, so best to make sure it’s not accessible for your dog.

Raisins, Grapes and Sultanas

These Christmas favourites, either out for snacking or mixed into Christmas treats, are toxic for pets and can cause vomiting, and in more severe cases kidney failure. It’s unknown what it is about them that is so toxic to our pets, so it is recommended to keep them well away from our furry friends.

Macadamia Nuts

Chocolate coated, mixed, in cake, roasted, falling off Nanna’s tree – these tasty treats are highly poisonous to dogs. The signs of macadamia poisoning can be pretty scary and include vomiting, tremors, hyperthermia and in serious cases, the inability to walk and paralysis. If they happen to eat a macadamia while still encased in its shell, it also poses a risk to their digestive system if it results in a blockage. It’s also worth mentioning that most nuts, including almonds, pecans and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils which may result in vomiting and diarrhoea.


Popular on the BBQ and a secret ingredient in many recipes, onions can cause problems if eaten in excess by our pets. It can cause long-term problems to your dog’s red blood cells, which may lead to anaemia; making them weak and lethargic. They may also experience gastrointestinal upsets from onion.


This sweetener can be found in lollies, gum, baked goods and toothpaste. This can cause a drop in your pet’s blood sugar levels and can lead to hypoglycaemia. Your pet may also experience an initial reaction of vomiting and lethargy, which can develop into seizures, and in worse cases liver failure within a few days.


Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without that hallmark combination of spices lingering in the air and nutmeg is one of them. Just be sure not to fling it around too much as you dust off your next eggnog as nutmeg is a lesser known toxin to dogs. The Australian Veterinary Association notes that nutmeg can be associated with tremors, seizures and nervous system issues.

Cooked Bones

(Yes, Uncle Geoffrey, this includes the Christmas ham bone!)

A raw meaty bone is excellent for your dog’s dental and mental health. The chewing promotes a feeling of wellbeing and stimulation. Cooked bones however, can be dangerous for your dog as they can splinter and cause your dog lots of pain and internal injuries. There’s always lots of cooked bones around at Christmas, and it’s common for unknowing and well-meaning family members to offer these to your dog as a treat, so make sure you clear the table straight into the bin or out of reach of your dog (and Uncle Geoffrey).

Christmas Ham

This salty staple on the Christmas table is a common cause for a vet visit at Christmas time. It can cause painful digestive upsets with diarrhoea and vomiting and, sometimes, can lead to pancreatitis. This can be really distressing for you and your pet, so make sure you keep your hams to yourself.


Another one that seems obvious, but a spilled drink may be quite appealing for our pets and the relatives may have a good laugh at how much ‘Rover loves a drink’, however they are much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and can become poisoned very quickly. This may present with symptoms of vomiting, loss of consciousness or difficulty breathing.

What do I do if my pet eats one of these foods?

It’s important to remain calm for your pet, try to estimate how much of the food they have eaten and contact your vet straight away. Your vet will be able to determine whether you need to make an emergency trip to the clinic.

If they experience digestive upsets from any of the foods, a probiotic may be beneficial to help recover and restore their digestive balance. Probiotics can provide relief of digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhoea. You can read more about probiotics here.

What treats CAN my pet enjoy at Christmas?

Make your dog’s meal into a festive "pudding" by topping with greek yoghurt and berries.

There are plenty of healthy, species appropriate treats available for your pet.

You might even just like to top their usual meal with some festive treats like blueberries or cranberries. Most dogs will go wild over a raw egg cracked on top of their meal, just be careful with this treat if your dog is restricted to a low fat diet. Chefs & Dogs have stacks of inspiring recipes if you want to treat your pooch to a next level dining experience.

For something extra special, we have a limited edition Turducken Christmas recipe available at participating retailers.

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