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A Dog-Friendly Christmas: Dangers and Treats

With Christmas upon us, it’s important to remember that many of the festive goodies us humans will be enjoying, pose a real threat to your dog’s health and wellbeing. Shiny decorations, twinkly lights and tempting festive foods can all mean a trip to the vet, so create a dog-friendly environment that ensures both you and your pal can enjoy a worry-free Christmas.

Here’s a handy list (all naughty, no nice!) of festive dangers to be aware of. But before you call us Scrooge, we’ve added in some ideas to include your dog in the fun, as well as a recipe for some delicious dog-friendly Christmas cookies. Merry Christmas!

Dog wearing a festive Santa hat sat in a living room in front of a Christmas tree

Deck The Halls With Care

Christmas decorations bring atmosphere, warmth and light into your home. Although they look pretty, they can also present a real threat to your dog. Here’s what to look out for to keep your pup safe amid the sparkles and merriment.

Festive Lights

Those twinkly tree lights look gorgeous but can pose a serious electrocution hazard when chewed by dogs. Ensure your lights are hung out of reach, the cord is protected from a curious hound, and the manufacturer's guidelines are followed to the letter. If you suspect your dog has been electrocuted, seek immediate attention from a vet.

Tinsel And Ribbons

Tinsel and ribbons brighten up the tree and gifts, but can be deadly for your dog. If they ingest a piece, it has the potential to block and, in some cases, cut through their intestines. Such a foriegn body can only be removed by surgery. Never leave your pup unattended around tinsel and ribbon and watch out for sticky tape, bows and string, too.

If you do notice a bit in their mouth or backside, don’t attempt to remove it yourself – seek veterinary attention immediately. If your dog is vomiting, has diarrhoea or isn’t eating, they could have an intestinal obstruction and will need to see a vet.

Christmas Ornaments

One wag of a tail can knock those pretty glass baubles off the tree to be trampled underfoot. Given that most tree decorations are made from glass, this could cut your dog’s paws, or worse if they attempted to chew them. Secure your decorations well away from curious noses. As for chocolate tree decorations, it’s time to wave them goodbye. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs.

The Christmas Tree

A real Christmas tree may be the focal point in your festive decor, but be mindful that it can pose a number of dangers to your dog. Keep the base well covered: tree-stand water contains preservatives and sap that may cause vomiting and diarrhoea. If swallowed, pine needles can make your pup sick, so opt for a spruce or fir tree if possible.

Christmas Plants

Many of our favourite Christmas plants can cause irritation to your dog’s mouth and stomach, so keep an eye out for poinsettia, holly, ivy, mistletoe, amaryllis and Christmas cactus – all very beautiful, festive plants that could give you an unwell pup this season.

Remember, if you suspect that your dog has eaten anything they shouldn’t have or is displaying unusual symptoms, get in touch with your vet right away.

Toxic Festive Foods To Watch Out For

Favourite festive foods that we take for granted can play havoc with our dogs’ digestive systems and can even be downright toxic. We surveyed 2,000 pet owners and found that, although more than half of dog owners (56%) understand the dangers of feeding their pets human foods, more than two-thirds were still planning to dish up Christmas dinner leftovers to their canine companions. Of those surveyed, 15% also admitted to having previously sought veterinary advice on Boxing Day, as their dog had become so unwell.

flatlay of festive turkey in a roasting tin with a red candle, napkin and cutlery

Here are some of the culprits to look out for:

Onion

Garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and onions all belong to the same plant family and are toxic to dogs. Symptoms can initially include vomiting and diarrhoea and can go on to attack a dog’s red blood cells and cause life-threatening anaemia. Onions are often included in gravy and stuffing, so be sure to avoid feeding these to your pup.

Gravy

Gravy can contain high levels of salt, which can cause kidney damage. Christmas gravy can often include onion, too – so be sure to avoid feeding your dog gravy at all costs.

Grapes, Raisins And Sultanas

Commonly used in some of our favourite festive desserts, like mince pies and Christmas pudding, grapes, raisins and sultanas are toxic to dogs. In severe cases, they can cause renal failure. The dried versions of these fruits are more frequently associated with severe symptoms.

Chocolate

Chocolate contains theobromine, a toxic stimulant that can cause sickness and diarrhoea and can even prove fatal. Most dog owners are aware of the danger chocolate can pose, but it’s especially important to be vigilant over the Christmas period when you may be unaware that you have chocolate lurking under the tree.

Turkey

Leftover turkey may seem like the safe option, but splinters from cooked poultry bones can get stuck in your dog’s throat, presenting a choking risk, or cause severe irritation to or pierce the intestinal tract as they pass.

cupcakes with festive iced and chocolate decorations

Alcohol

Alcohol can have a similar effect in dogs as it does on their owners when drunk in excess. They can become wobbly and drowsy and, in severe cases, there is a risk of low body temperature, low blood sugar and coma. Dogs may attempt to slurp up the contents of any unattended glasses left lying around over Christmas. Make sure they’re always placed out of reach.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, tremors, lameness and stiffness in dogs. They can be found in cakes and cookies. Individual sensitivity to macadamia nuts may vary, as does the number of nuts needed to cause a toxic reaction.

Leftovers

If there is any food left over at Christmas, be careful to dispose of it well and keep it out of the reach of your four-legged friend. Not only may the food include ingredients toxic to dogs, mould in leftovers (including yoghurt, bread and cheese) can produce toxins that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.

Artificial Sweeteners

Xylitol is often found in the sweets we consume over Christmas, as well as in chewing gum, mouthwashes, toothpastes and supplements. It's poisonous to dogs and, although the amounts in different products vary, even one to two pieces of chewing gum can cause toxic effects in a small dog. Signs of Xylitol poisoning can be rapid or delayed, and include vomiting, lethargy, convulsions or collapse.

How Do I Include My Pup In The Festive Fun?

We’ve listed the dangers – now it’s time for the fun stuff! There’s no reason why your dog should be left out of all the festivities. After all, they’re a member of the family, who needs to be involved in everything from bracing winter walks and present-opening to Christmas lunch and fireside naps.

1. Give Them Their Own Gift

Sticky tape, ribbon, string and small parts, such as batteries, mean your pup mustn’t get in the thick of opening presents. Add to their enrichment on Christmas Day by giving them their own present or stocking to open. It’ll keep them occupied while you open your gifts – they’ll love ripping up the paper, sniffing out treats hidden within the layers and discovering a toy (new, preloved or homemade) within.

2. Serve Up Some Gourmet Food

As we humans treat ourselves to all manner of seasonal goodies, why not extend the goodwill to your dog? Treat them to our range of gourmet wet food, created in partnership with the National Trust as an alternative to eating human Christmas dinner. Available in two delicious flavours: chicken with duck and salmon with herring - these tasty dishes are grain free, and made with natural ingredients.

Or check out our delectable festive range - a limited edition Christmas dinner from Devon. Gently steamed to retain maximum goodness, you can treat your dog to a healthy but tail-waggingly tasty recipe at this special time of year.

And afterwards? Blow away the cobwebs by going out for a Boxing Day walk at your local National Trust property, where dogs are always welcome.

3. Treat Them To Some Turkey Bites

Reward your dog for their patience and good behaviour in between festive meal times with nourishing treats they’ll love. For a festive twist, try our limited edition turkey and cranberry soft bites, which will keep them entertained while you get on with basting the actual turkey. Perfect for even the most sensitive of tummies.

Or for quieter moments and to help your dog relax in the midst of the family festivities, you could offer them our calming multi-functional soft bites with turkey, camomile, lavender and lemon balm.

4. Bake Them Some Dog-Friendly Christmas Cookies

Forthglade's festive cranberry star cookies

Show your four-legged friend how much you love them with these delicious cranberry star cookies. Simple, easy and sure to get a tail wag of approval, these cookies are definitely not just for Christmas!

Ingredients
  • 130g oat flour
  • 20g almond flour
  • 60g dried cranberries
  • 120g shredded turkey
  • 2 eggs
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.
  3. Add oat flour, almond flour, cranberries and turkey.
  4. Knead the dough and roll it out approx 3mm thick (if the dough is a bit sticky to handle, add more flour).
  5. Cut with a star-shaped cookie cutter.*
  6. Place on parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes or until they are golden brown.

*A 7cm star cookie cutter makes approximately 30 cookies.

Top Tips

For a harder cookie, allow the treats to cool inside the oven completely before removing.

Warning
  • Dried cranberries add a pop of fruity flavour to these festive treats, but don’t substitute them with raisins. Grapes and raisins are not suitable for dogs – just a few can be dangerous, causing acute renal failure.
  • Only share when baked - unbaked dough or mixture should not be fed to dogs.
  • These treats are ideal for healthy, active dogs, fed as part of a balanced diet.

5. Keep Their Teeth Clean

If your pup has been enjoying a few too many dog-friendly treats, we’ve developed a plant-based dental stick designed to help your four-legged friend maintain a healthy dental routine. Made using natural ingredients, bursting with goodness and packed full of flavour. They’re ideal for supporting strong teeth, helping to remove tartar and plaque, and freshening breath.

How Do I Keep My Dog Stress-Free At Christmas?

  • Stick to a routine. Christmas is an exciting time but it can be stressful for your pup, as they thrive on routine. Keep to their regular schedule as much as possible, sticking to their usual walks.
  • Give them plenty of playtime and attention, particularly if you have unfamiliar guests staying.
  • Give them space away from all the noise and activity, especially if they’re anxious. Fireworks are common over the festive period and can be quite terrifying for our beloved canine companions so it’s important to help keep your dog calm and reassured. Check out our firework top tips.
  • Don’t dress your dog up, even if they don’t protest. Get them into the festive spirit with a new toy instead.

Have a wonderful Christmas and whatever happens, don’t be tempted to share your festive goodies with your dog! Need further inspiration? We’ve got more advice, tips and tricks on our blog.

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