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6 Christmas Hazards to Keep Away from Your Dog

Written by Anna Hollisey

Updated

Handsome dog surrounded by Christmas presents with jingle bells collar

Over Christmas, homes are filled with festive joy – and more than a few canine dangers. Here’s what you need to know before you start the celebrations.

Oh, there are delicious smells coming from the kitchen! While their owners prepare cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and chestnuts, dogs begin to drool with anticipation. What parts of your lunch will they be allowed to share?

Can Dogs Eat Cranberry Sauce?

They want some – but should they? At first glance, cranberry sauce may seem OK for your dog. But cranberry sauce usually contains sugar, which is bad for your dog’s teeth (even if they’re regularly brushed). If store-bought, it could also contain raisins or currants, which are toxic for dogs. This is one Christmas treat that should be kept away from your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Gravy?

Unfortunately, even homemade gravy is probably off-limits for your hopeful dog. If it was prepared with onion, garlic, or salt, it should be reserved for human guests only!

Can Dogs Eat Nuts, Candy and Chocolate?

These popular holiday-season snacks are toxic for our dogs. 

  • Nuts can be choking hazards; while peanuts and cashews are technically edible for dogs, they’re best fed in buttered form – and in careful moderation. Some nuts, like macadamia nuts, are highly toxic to dogs, causing vomiting and tremors. 
  • Candy can be really disastrous for dogs. Many kinds contain the sweetener Xylitol, which is extremely toxic and can cause seizures or liver failure. If your dog has eaten a sled-load of candy canes then they’ll be spending the holiday at the veterinary clinic – where they’ll have to evacuate their stomach and then be closely monitored. 
  • Chocolate contains a toxin called theobromine, which can cause distressing symptoms like vomiting, seizures or heart problems. Chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa is the most dangerous, although ingesting one square might not affect your dog, it's not worth the risk. 

Can Dogs Eat Christmas Lunch?

If you want to dish up a serving of the special lunch for your dog, choose the home-cooked items, and don’t add any seasoning. 

What can you give to the dog? Turkey and chicken are fine for most dogs – remove bones first; mashed potato or sweet potato (no butter or salt); some vegetables, such as green beans, carrot, and parsnips; and unseasoned roast potatoes will all be acceptable.

If your dog’s likely to regard the shiny tree as a source of entertainment, take some measures to protect them (and the tree).

First, push the lights well into the heart of the tree and ensure that decorations are firmly wedged on the branches (not dangling from the ends). Ensure that cables are hidden behind the tree so that your dog isn’t tempted to nibble them. Did you buy chocolate tree decorations or hanging candy canes? Have you made strings of popcorn to hang enticingly?  Probably best to just eat them directly rather than turning them into a hunting game for your four legged friend.

Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Dogs?

Most natural Christmas tree types (fir, spruce and pine) are not toxic for dogs, but their needles can cause internal irritation, so tree-chewing should be discouraged! There could be other Christmas foliage in your home which should be kept well away from dogs. Mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettia can cause gastrointestinal upset. 

Help! My dog ate tinsel!

Tinsel is made from a plastic polymer (usually PVC) with a metallic coating. It isn’t poisonous but, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, can become tangled around your pet’s tongue or lodged in the stomach, where it won’t pass through the body. This means that small pieces of tinsel will likely pass through – but if your dog ate a length of tinsel, there’s a risk of internal rupture, so you should contact your vet and monitor them closely. 

That box of cheese is beautifully wrapped. But your dog can smell it from the next room. How will they resist the temptation for another 12 days?

If your dog is an enthusiastic tracker – or a skilled paper-ripper – then it’s safest to keep all your gifts locked away. Don’t leave your dog in the room with either the gifts or the tree. Instead, prettify the tree base with a tree skirt until Christmas Day, when everyone is gathered together (and there are plenty of eyes on your dog). 

Some dogs love it, some dogs hate it – in many parts of the country, snow is part of the holiday magic! But snow and ice can pose hazards for our dogs. 

Did you know that most chemical deicers are toxic to dogs? If they’re walking on icy sidewalks, be sure to soak their paws in warm water when they come home. 

When the temperature drops to 40°F/ 4°C, it can be dangerous for dogs to walk or spend a long time outside. Equip them for the weather with a snow jacket, and keep walks shorter, especially if your dog begins to slow down. If your dog gets little balls of ice between their toe-beans, consider buying them two pairs of snow boots! 

During the holidays, your home probably fills up with different people – unexpected or planned, short-stayers or make-themselves-at-homers! Your dog may have to adjust to this.

First, there’s usually significant disruption to your dog’s routine at Christmas. Address this by helping them to stay in routine as much as possible: feeding them at the same regular times and ensuring they get walked despite the holiday madness. 

When guests arrive, explain your rules on ‘doggy etiquette’ – it will help your dog to be better-behaved. Your House Rules might include things like: 

  • No unsupervised play with children
  • No rewards for jumping
  • No feeding from hands.

Your dog may love people, but all that socializing can be exhausting. So it’s a great idea to ringfence a ‘safe space’ where your dog can retreat in peace. If their regular spot has become busy, give them space in another room. And if your dog is a very determined entertainer, make a point of putting them to bed for occasional Time Out.

Remember, most dogs thrive on mental exercise just as much as physical so all the new excitement should be good for them. Just keep an eye out for overexcited or overly tired dogs, especially if you’ve got small children running around. 

Further Reading

Have you sorted your dog’s Christmas present? Here’s what FOTP dog Louie put on his very first Christmas list! Prepare for winter weather with our winter walks check-list.