Health | Safety | 2 Min Read

Common Christmas Dangers

Being an emergency vet, Dr Lisa has seen her fair share of accidental ingestions. Some with devastating consequences. The good news is that most are preventable. With Christmas season upon us, here’s a handy reminder of what foods our dogs absolutely must never eat. For more information, visit the Animal Poisons Helpline or call 1300 869 738.


Chocolate products (including cocoa powder) contain theobromine and caffeine, collectively known as methylxanthines which dogs cannot metabolise. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, increased urination, hyperactivity, tremors, increased heart rate, arrhythmias and possibly seizures.

Grapes including sultanas, currants and raisins

The underlying cause of this toxin is unknown, but it can cause kidney failure which can be fatal. There have been reports of ingestion of as little as one grape causing toxicity. Be especially mindful of the Christmas Cake which is filled with these sweet human treats. 


Poisoning can occur from the ingestion of whole raw onions, chopped, cooked and dehydrated onions as well as products containing onion powder. Garlic, chives and leeks are part of the same family called Allium. 

These products can cause the red blood cells to breakdown, which can be life threatening. Symptoms: pale gums, loss of appetite, lethargy, rapid breathing and a rapid heart rate. Diarrhoea and vomiting is also common.


An artificial sweetener found in many human snacks including chewing gum, lollies, biscuits and sugar-free foods. It’s also used in toothpaste and some medications. Xylitol has been seen in some peanut butters too, so always read the label. It causes dangerously low blood sugar levels and can damage your dog's liver. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, collapse and even death.

Macadamia nuts (or Queensland nuts)

The reason for this toxicity isn’t fully understood but we do know poisoning develops 3-24 hours after ingestion. Due to the size of macadamia nuts, they also pose a choking hazard. Symptoms: weakness, reluctance to get up/stand, reluctance to walk, a wobbly walk, trembling, lethargy, vomiting and elevated body temperature.

Stone fruit pits

The stones found in delicious fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots contain Cyanide which is extremely poisonous to dogs. The pits can also cause a physical obstruction in the digestive system, depending on your dog’s size. Signs of Cyanide toxicity can include salivation, rapid or difficulty breathing, bright red gums, wobbliness, convulsions and paralysis. 

Cooked bones and skewers

With roast meats and barbeques in abundance throughout Christmas, your dog will be giving you the most adorable ‘feed me eyes’. Cooked bones and skewers can perforate the digestive tract, leading to life threatening complications.

Finally, always ensure bins are closed and preferably out of reach from enquiring snouts and paws.  

First aid

  1. Call your nearest vet immediately and let them know what’s happened.
  2. Keep a sample of what was swallowed so the vet can identify the active ingredient.
  3. The sooner you get them to a vet, the better.
  4. Depending on the product ingested, it’s usually best if your vet induces vomiting within the hour. Never try to induce vomiting yourself at home.