Our research has shown that almost a quarter (24%) of pet owners will be dishing up a plate of Christmas dinner for their pet this year.

However, the festive treat could backfire as many of the traditional Christmas trimmings are toxic for dogs and cats.

Last year more than a dozen dogs were admitted to our hospitals after being ‘treated’ to Christmas dinner by their owners.

Festive food can be dangerous for our pets

Angela Grigg, manager at Putney Animal Hospital in London said:

“We had 15 cases on Boxing day as a result of people giving their dogs their own Christmas dinner with turkey and stuffing. Turkey is very rich and stuffing contains onions which is not good for dogs. It caused them to have vomiting and diarrhoea and they became dehydrated. One or two of them were so severe they had to go on drips.


“The owners told us they were giving their dogs Christmas dinner as a treat but some human food can be toxic for dogs and in extreme cases could cause death.


“All of these cases were completely avoidable. If you want to give your dog a nice treat at Christmas take them for a lovely walk or if you want to give them something to eat buy them a special treat especially designed for dogs.”

Festive foods which can be dangerous for pets:

  • Splinters of poultry bones are dangerous to dogs and cats, as they can become stuck in their throats or even pierce their intestinal tract.
  • Grapes, raisins and sultanas contain a toxin which can cause kidney failure
  • Chocolate, the darker the more dangerous as it contains theobromine which can cause seizures, coma and heart failure.
  • Stuffing contains onions and garlic which can destroy red blood cells causing life-threatening anaemia
  • Seeds and stones from apples, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums contain a cyanide compound which can be poisonous
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and peppers – contains toxins which could be deadly for horses
  • Nutmeg, high levels can result in seizures, tremors, central nervous system problems and even death.
  • Gravy containing high levels of salt can cause kidney problems if give in excess.
  • Alcohol can cause deadly poisoning. Cats can be particularly attracted to cocktails containing cream such as White Russians and eggnog
  • Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremor, lameness and stiffness in dogs.
  • Mouldy leftovers, including yoghurt, bread and cheese can contain toxins produced by the mould that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.

Our staff working over Christmas to cope with emergencies

Our survey* revealed that most owners said their pets had got into Christmas scrapes; the most common (31%) being opening or destroying Christmas presents.

A quarter of owners (26%) said their pet had pulled down the Christmas tree, and 17% had eaten Christmas decorations and 17% had helped themselves to Christmas dinner.

Other Christmas scrapes included dogs cocking their legs on the tree, a dog which chewed up a mini computer when it was delivered and a cat chewing through Christmas lights wire.

Craig Osborne from RSPCA Newbrook Farm said staff had treated 37 animals over Christmas Eve, Christmas and Boxing Day last year – including a kitten which had swallowed tinsel.  He said:

“The kitten had ingested tinsel and we had to operate to remove it. We often get cases of dogs and cats swallowing bones or squeakers from toys and if they are unable to pass foreign bodies such as those mentioned this can lead to severe vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation. Some require hospitalisation and some have serious complications that they require life saving surgery.


“Pet owners should not give their pets left over bones from the Christmas dinner and remember to not leave any presents containing chocolate within easy reach – as I have learned to my cost.


“One year I came home to find my 12-month-old rescue dog Carly had eaten a large box of chocolates which had been left under the Christmas tree. Large volumes of chocolate can prove fatal in some animals. Thankfully Carly, though she spent most of the next 48 hours with vomiting and diarrhoea, made a full recovery and we never made that mistake again.”

Boxing Day typically busy for our staff  after the excess of Christmas

Greater Manchester Animal Hospital treated seven animals on Christmas Day last year and will have four members of staff working this Christmas to cope with emergencies.

Seb Prior, clinical director at Harmsworth Hospital in London, said staff will be caring for up to 120 animals already being treated in the hospital as well pets which need emergency care. He added:

“Boxing day is typically very busy after the excess of Christmas. Last year we had 10 new emergencies; two cats had blocked bladders, a condition which is exacerbated by stress. Often owners don’t realise the impact that lots of visitors or unusual people on our feline friends but it can be very stressful for them to have changes in their environment and this can have an impact on their health. So making sure they have places to hide or get away from things is important.


“We had two dogs with vomiting and diarrhoea; possibly as a result of eating food they would normally not be given.


One year we had a dog which had eaten tinsel which nearly died, another dog one year that broke into a cupboard and ate an entire Christmas cake, which contained lots of potentially toxic raisins as well as a considerable amount of brandy. He was pretty sorry for himself after this and quite nauseous but was completely fine in the end.

“We have also seen dogs and cats with small splinters of glass decorations in their pads.”

RSPCA Animal hospitals provide low-cost veterinary care to some families living nearby on low incomes. If your pet falls ill over the Christmas period contact your vet in the first instant.

While families are enjoying a relaxed Christmas day hundreds of our staff will be working – including about 40 hospital staff and 70 emergency call handlers.

To help fund this vital Christmas Day work text HERO to 60155. Text cost £3 + one standard network rate message.


*RSPCA survey November 2013 – 867 pet owners responded unless stated otherwise.

Will you be giving your pet a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings this year? 867 respondents.

Yes 24%, No 72%, Don’t Know 4%.

Has your pet every got themselves into one of the following Christmas scrapes? 863 respondents. (Note the figures do not add up to 100% as people could choose more than one option).

Pulled down the Christmas tree, 26%. Eaten Christmas decorations 17%. Helped themselves to Christmas Dinner 17%, Opened or destroyed Christmas presents 31%. No 41%. Other 16%.