Poisonous christmas food for dogs

10 December 2021 - 4 min read

For us it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but spare a thought for your cats and dogs at Christmas.

With everyone busy and distracted and all that food, drink and presents galore, your pet could be at higher risk of poisoning and accidents.

Follow our advice to keep your cats and dogs safe and avoid spending new years at the vets.

‘Tis the season to be careful

There’s a lot going on at Christmas. Delicious food, festive tipples, friends and relatives coming and going, decorations, noise… all while it’s cold, dark and slippery outdoors.

We looked at pet insurance claims for cats and dogs between 8 December 2020 and 7 December 2021 and noticed that over 16% of claims were for accidents over the festive period. For the rest of the year, it was less than 15%.

Time period Percentage of pet claims that are accidents
8 Dec 2020-30 Jan 2021 (Festive period) 16.15%
1 Feb-8 Dec 2021 (Rest of the year) 14.72%

Accidents happen all year round, but there are some extra risks about at Christmas. An incredible 45% of accident claims are for foreign bodies and another 20% are for intoxication by poisoning.

The bulk of these claims come from pets eating something they shouldn’t and either being poisoned or getting it stuck in their throat or digestive organs. Other foreign bodies claims are for things finding their way into eyes, ears and noses.

Puppies are particularly accident-prone, so make sure you make good use of your puppy pen or crate when you can't keep an eye in them.

Some festive foreign bodies to keep your pet away from are:

  • Tinsel and glitter - if they eat it, tinsel won’t break down and the long strands could get stuck in your dog’s guts. If your cat’s drawn to sparkly things, they could get fragments caught in their eyes, ears or nose.

  • Bones - Your pet’s probably drawn to the delicious smells wafting from your kitchen in December, but make sure the turkey stays out of their reach. Cooked bones can splinter when they’re chewed and get stuck in their throat, gums or stomach.

  • Toys - You probably got your pet some gifts of their own to unwrap, but be careful of your dog eyeing up your kids’ new toys. Plastic parts can be chewed, swallowed and get stuck, but toys containing small button batteries or strong magnets are a particular menace. They can do untold damage to your pet’s digestive organs if they’re swallowed. Get the kids to tidy up, for the sake of their toys, and their best friend.

Keep festive poisons off your pet’s plate

Things that are toxic to your pet are in abundance at Christmas time. Although cat owners should be mindful of bringing festive plants like poinsettia and mistletoe into their homes, dogs are the main culprit here.

Dogs aren’t exactly renowned for being picky eaters and will make an opportunistic feast of anything dropped on the floor or left on an unguarded plate.

Quite a few foods that are toxic to dogs are festive favourites for humans, which might explain why dog poisoning claims account for more than 28% of all dog accident claims over the festive season - 7% higher than for the rest of the year:

Time period Percentage of dog accident claims that are poisoning
8 Dec 2020-30 Jan 2021 (Festive period) 28.11%
1 Feb-8 Dec 2021 (Rest of the year) 21.25%

By far the most common cause of dog poisoning grapes and raisins, which of course are in abundance at this time of year.

if your dog raids the grapes from the festive fruit bowl or snaffles a mince pie, “Get them straight to a vet,” warns veterinary surgeon Sophie Bell. “Never sit and wait as it can take several days for symptoms to show and by that time they could be in acute kidney failure.”

The problem is, some owners are completely unaware that grapes, raisins, and sultanas are toxic. “Sometimes dogs get them in fruit and nut chocolate where the owner is more concerned about the chocolate - but I’m more concerned about the fruit!” says Sophie.

As if the hidden dangers of a figgy pudding weren’t enough, these are a few other toxic treats we see claims for:

  • Onions - All parts of raw and cooked onions can be poisonous to dogs, so don’t let them finish off the sage stuffing or any other oniony Christmas fare. Other members of the onion family - spring onions garlic and chives - are also toxic, so don’t give them a taste of the Boursin either.

  • Chocolate - Most owners now know that dogs shouldn’t have chocolate, but make sure selection boxes are stored out of reach and be careful of kids trying to share treats with their furry best friend. You can get ‘chocolate’ dog treats that contain carob instead, which is safe.

  • Painkillers - Ok, not so much a treat, more a consequence of overindulgence. But if you’ve turned to paracetamol or ibuprofen to sooth a post-party head, make sure you put the pack back in the medicine cupboard. Just a few pills can be incredibly toxic to dogs, especially smaller ones.

Kitty it’s cold outside

Road accidents are the most common accident claim for cats at any time of year.

We looked at cat road accident claims between June 2020-2021 and found that winter is a relatively safe season for cats, with accident claims much higher in summer when they’re most active outdoors.

But the festive season and its aftermath did see an increase in the percentage of cat road accident claims.

December and January, were the most dangerous winter months for cats crossing roads. Road accidents accounted for 19-21% of all cat accident over these two months.

Month Percentage of all cat accident claims that are road accidents
July 2020 19%
August 2020 27%
September 2020 29%
October 2020 25%
November 2020 17%
December 2020 19%
January 2021 21%
February 2021 18%
March 2021 18%
April 2021 18%
May 2021 24%
June 2021 25%

We’re entering the darkest months, which means your cat will be less visible to drivers. Bad weather might also make it hard for drivers to stop in time.

Christmas time can also mean a busy, noisy house, which some cats dislike, and this drives them out into the cold.

If you have a cat that heads outside whatever the weather, you can take steps to help keep them safe:

  • Let it glow - if your cat doesn’t object to wearing a collar, a reflective one could help them be seen in the dark. Make sure you choose one with a safety fastening that’ll come undone if they get it caught on something.

  • Impose a curfew - It’s a good idea to lock the catflap once they’re in for the evening. Cats are at increased risk from both cars and attacks by other animals after dark. You could even get a microchip cat flap that locks behind them after a certain time to save you having to wait up.

  • Give them some space - Make sure your cat has a quiet area in the house to retreat to and escape the attentions of visiting children or dogs.

  • Deck their halls - Do some Christmas shopping that gives your kitty more reasons to stay home. A cosy bed, interactive toys and a new litter tray so they have their own en-suite.

Merry puss-mas and a yappy new year

You don’t want to exclude your pet from the season’s merrymaking, but it is possible to have fun and keep them safe at the same time.

Now you know the Christmas dangers for cats and dogs, you can take steps to keep your cat in the house at night and your dog out the kitchen while you’re cooking.

All our pet insurance customers have access to unlimited video vet calls, 365 days a year – so if you do have any health concerns for your furry family members while your vet’s closed for Christmas you can get help and advice at any time of the day or night.

Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.