Doggie at Christmas

Giving dogs human food at the holidays may feel like a good idea, but it can be fatal, says veterinarian Lawrence Lamb.

Christmas can be a dangerous time for pets, with tempting but potentially poisonous treats adorning every open surface — meaning many pet owners will experience an emergency this festive season. This year I am adding a new risk to the list: chocolate medical marijuana:  This past weekend, a pet was seen with what appeared to be neurological symptoms. Upon gathering a detailed history, I learned that the dog had eaten chocolate medical marijuana.

As nine in 10 poisonings happen in the owner's home, and a shocking 5.5 million dog owners unknowingly feed their pets these harmful foods at Christmas, below is a helpful list of hazards all owners need to be aware of, to help avoid any animal-related accidents this festive season:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, a bit like caffeine, which, while tasty, is severely poisonous to cats and dogs. 

2. Mince Pies and Christmas Puddings

All grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are toxic to dogs; as are foods that contain them — which means no mince pies for your pooch, we're afraid. 

3. Blue Cheese

While delicious to us, blue cheese contains a substance called roquefortine C, which dogs are extremely sensitive to. 

4. Tinsel

While it might look like a lot of fun to play with, tinsel can cause dangerous blockages in an animal's stomach. 

5. Macadamia nuts 

Often lurking in biscuits or eaten as a decadent Christmas snack, these nuts cause severe illness in dogs.

6. Garlic, chives and onion 

Found in many festive foods like gravy, stuffing and sausages, all Allium species are poisonous to dogs. 

7. Snow Globes

Imported versions can contain antifreeze — as little as one tablespoon can be fatal for a cat. 

8. Candles 

They may create a cozy atmosphere, but candle flames can burn paws and the curious noses of furry friends. There's also risk of them falling over when brushed against. 

9. Fairy Lights 

Cats are curious and will try to chew on anything, including fairy lights — which can burn and even electrocute them. 

10. Alcohol 

Alcohol can cause severe liver and brain damage in animals. As little as a tablespoon can lead to problems for your cat or dog. 

11.  Edible Cannabis:  Recreational and Medical, a.k.a., Marijuana 

In chocolate, Gummy Beans and other food, ingestion can cause a potential critical emergency or symptoms of ataxia, making your pet appeared “stoned.”

Other hazards to be aware of include:

Salt dough ornaments — the mix of flour and salt with water can cause a potentially fatal salt toxicosis. Christmas foliage like poinsettia, mistletoe and ivy — all of which are mildly toxic to both cats and dogs. Wrapping paper — eating a large amount of paper could cause an obstruction in the stomach. Lilies — those from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species are

very dangerous for cats. Eating just two or three leaves, or even drinking

water from a vase containing them can be potentially fatal. 

If your pet has eaten anything potentially harmful, you should call your vet for advice. Many local vet practices choose to close over the Christmas period so it's essential you're aware of your local veterinarian who can see pets over the holidays.

Dr. Lamb is the veterinarian at the Manchester Animal Hospital.

Giving dogs human food at the holidays may feel like a good idea, but it can be fatal, says veterinarian Lawrence Lamb.