What NOT to feed your four-legged friends this Christmas


A collection of festive food and treats best avoided by cats and dogs this holiday season.

Dog and cat wearing santa hats eating Christmas food off a table
Whether it’s food, alcohol or presents, it’s easy to overindulge during the festive season.

For humans, the repercussions of overindulgence are a sore stomach, head or a lighter wallet but for pets the ramifications can be serious.

Cats and dogs have different digestive systems, so while that extra rumball or piece of ham might not hurt us, it can be harmful to pets. These are common foods your ‘fur babies’ should avoid at Christmas.

Milk, cheese and dairy

The impact dairy can have on your pet can vary. Some dogs can eat it without a problem, whereas others experience acute pain and allergic reactions. Cats cannot ingest any dairy as they’re lactose intolerant.


Chocolate and other caffeinated food and drinks contain a substance called theobromine which is toxic to cats and dogs causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, heart problems, muscle tremors and seizures.

The amount of theobromine depends on the type and quality of chocolate. Darker chocolates have higher doses and are regarded as more toxic. Chocolate also contains caffeine which can cause pets to become restless and suffer from rapid breathing, heart palpitations and muscle tremors.

Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins can be very dangerous for your dog. They’re highly toxic and not easily processed by their digestive system. Your dog may start vomiting soon after eating, resulting in dehydration and kidney failure. The level of toxicity for cats is unknown, but vets advise keeping grapes and raisins out of reach.

Garlic and onions

Raw garlic and onions can cause gastrointestinal problems and anaemia if eaten in large volumes. Small amounts are unlikely to cause any issues but prolonged consumption can lead to digestive issues.


Alcohol is harmful to both cats and dogs and should be avoided. As little as a teaspoon of alcohol can cause brain and liver damage in cats. Dogs can also suffer from kidney failure as their digestive system is not equipped to handle it.

Cooked bones

Cooked bones are not suitable for your cat or dog as they can splinter and cause internal damage. Only feed your pet raw meat and bones as there is less chance of injury, and most cats and dogs have a carnivorous diet.

Artificial sweeteners

Eating artificial sweeteners (like Xylitol) should be avoided. Xylitol - found in many baked goods, toothpaste and gum - can be very harmful to cats and dogs. It can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels and the onset of hyperglycaemia. The reactions are most severe in cats, but artificial sweeteners can also cause liver failure, seizures, convulsions and death in dogs.

Macadamia nuts

As little as a few macadamia nuts can make your pets ill. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, hyperthermia, muscle tremors and paralysis. Some other types of nuts, including walnuts, can also be toxic to your pets.

Treatment and prevention

Contact a vet if your dog or cat has eaten any of the above foods. Try and gauge how much they’ve eaten as this can assist in providing appropriate treatment. The easiest way to avoid having to treat your pet is through prevention.

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.