Christmas Hazards for Your Dog

During Christmas, it is very important to know about and look out for the new dangers that you can expose your pet dog to, this article goes into the ten main hazards your pet may encounter during these festivities.

We can all agree that Christmas is a time of celebration, love, family-fun, and maybe a bit of overindulgence and overeating. Because our dogs are also an important part of the family and take an active part in the action, they are also exposed to new dangers during the holiday celebrations. With a bit of information and foresight, we can prevent many potential food, plant, electrical, and other hazards and make sure we all enjoy the merriest of celebrations.

We have compiled a list of the Top Ten dangers pet parents can and should look out for during Christmas and the holiday celebrations:


The toxicity level of chocolate and cocoa will depend on just how much is consumed, how much your dog weighs and the kind of chocolate that has been ingested. Theobromine, the molecule in chocolate that is poisonous to dogs and cats, is metabolized very slowly, this pushes the concentration to toxic levels within the pet’s body. Dark chocolate, cocoa, and bakery chocolate have more theobromine, while white chocolate and milk chocolate have lower levels of the toxic molecule.

If your dog consumes chocolate, don’t wait for the symptoms to appear, call your vet as soon as possible.

Low amounts of chocolate might lead to moderate GI issues like throwing up or diarrhea. Large amounts can produce hyperactivity, followed by trembling, arrhythmia, seizures, internal bleeding, and, in the most severe cases, cardiac arrest. Under 30 grams of dark chocolate is toxic for a dog that weighs 20 kilograms.


When dogs consume grapes or raisins, the most serious health issue can be abrupt kidney failure, which is life-threatening. Less severe symptoms can include appetite loss, unusual weakness, and stillness, throwing up and diarrhea, stomach pains, thirst, and dehydration.

If you believe your dog has found and ate raisins or grapes, treatment is very important. Contact your vet immediately for assistance and guidance.

Many of the holiday celebration dishes and food include raisins or grapes and are therefore a danger for your dog. Research has still not been able to fully identify what compound within the fruit is the one that triggers this serious response. That’s why even peeled and seedless grapes ought to be avoided. That’s also why there is no specific limit that is acceptable and safe, so please make sure your dog doesn’t find any to eat.


Macadamia nuts are hazardous to dogs. All macadamia types build up cyanogenic glycosides in their seeds (proteacin and durrin). Even small amounts can make a dog ill. Signs a dog has eaten them include weakness in the hind legs, throwing up, and diarrhea. Serious symptoms include trembling and fever require immediate medical attention.

Additionally, because these nuts are a fatty snack, eating them might lead to pancreatitis, an uncomfortable inflammatory condition of the pancreas. If your dog throws up, stops eating, has stomach pains, becomes lethargic after ingesting macadamia nuts, call your veterinarian immediately for medical guidance.


Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives all have a compound called n-propyl disulphide that is harmful to dogs and can harm the red blood cells. Unlike with grapes (mentioned above) where even a small amount can be harmful, in this case, with onions and the others, the ingested quantity actually matters. Normally if your dog consumes a little nothing will occur, but as with chocolate, it’ll also depend on the size of your dog and if the compound has been accumulating within the system.

Consumption can lead to hemolytic anemia, caused by damage to the dog’s red blood cells. Symptoms include weakness, sleepiness, appetite loss, and pale-coloured gums. Your dog may also throw up, pant, and have a high heart rate. If you suspect your dog has eaten onion, garlic, and any of the other ones and you see some of the symptoms call your veterinarian right away.


Normally alcohol is not a very common issue with dogs because they don’t find it palatable or interesting. Nevertheless, there are cases when they’ll consume it, say, mixed up with other flavours, like eggnog or in alcohol-infused cakes or other foods that may hide it better.

Alcohol intoxication in dogs will depend on concentration. Because dogs are smaller than us people, the amount of alcohol (ethanol) they consume will have a much higher impact.

Symptoms and signs of alcohol toxicity in dogs include anxiety and sleepiness, disorientation, lack of coordination, throwing up and retching, increased thirst, drooling, weakness, collapse, sluggish breathing, low blood-sugar levels, high blood pressure, and fever. If you believe your family pet has actually ingested a large quantity of alcohol or is showing some signs, call your vet right away.


In dogs, xylitol produces a strong release of pancreatic insulin. This in turn produces a strong and quick drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). This can all happen within 10 to 60 minutes after ingesting the food containing xylitol. If left without treatment, hypoglycemia can be lethal.

Some sugar-free foods include xylitol, an artificial sweetener in a class referred to as sugar-alcohol. It’s widely used in a variety of daily items, for example, breath mints, cough syrup, chewable vitamins, mouthwash, toothpaste, dietary supplements, baked products, sugar-free desserts, sugar-free sweets, and chocolate bars (chocolate is bad enough for your dog without adding xylitol!).

Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs include throwing up and symptoms related to hypoglycemia, like reduced activity, weakness, staggering, lack of coordination, fainting, and seizures.

If you believe your dog may have eaten something with xylitol, immediately call your vet or your local animal hospital.


Bones that are cooked and heated tend to lose their collagen and nutrients, they become soft and fragile. When your dog chews on them, they splinter and leave sharp pieces that, when swallowed, can lead to problems like internal bleeding and perforations in the stomach or intestines. Raw bones can also be dangerous, they can damage your dog’s teeth and mouth, produce obstructions when swallowed, and constipation.

If you believe your dog has eaten bones and shows some of these signs: gagging, and coughing, throwing up, sleepiness, problems pooping, extreme thirst, and uneasiness and they do not disappear within a couple of hours, call your vet.


Even though Christmas trees for us are a source of pleasure and fond memories, they can still be a danger to your dog. Pine needles are not digestible and can be slightly toxic depending on your dog’s size and the amount they consume. Fir tree oil can likewise irritate your dog’s stomach and mouth. Needles themselves can block or pierce the gastrointestinal system. To avoid these risks there are a few options, you can choose a Christmas tree that doesn’t shed that many needles like the Nordmann Fir, or even better, choose an artificial tree and avoid needles altogether.

Take into account that some Christmas trees to keep them fresh for a longer time, are treated with chemical preservatives. These chemicals can then seep into the water at the tree base making it dangerous. Make sure your dog is not able to drink it, use a tree skirt, or cover it with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a towel so there is no access to the water.


Dogs may find the colourful lights and shiny objects very tempting, so do not place them at the bottom of your tree where your dog can accidentally get tangled in the wires. Christmas lights nowadays are mostly LED and do generate to much residual heat, however, if you are still using some old-fashioned ones, they do get really hot and might burn your dog.

Securely tape cables to the wall or flooring, particularly those bringing electricity to and from the tree. Conceal cables with a tree skirt or ornamental bundle, use adhesive-back cable clips to keep them off the ground and out of reach.

Dogs who like to nibble on electrical cables and lights can get electric shocks and severe mouth injuries. Chewing on wires can also trigger lung edema (fluid in the lungs) that can be lethal. Examine the electric light cables for indications of chewing on a regular basis, remember it is also a fire hazard, so all the more reason.


Christmas is a fun time for all and especially for your dog, and tail wagging will be a full-time activity for your excited pet, so do not hang your most valued or most fragile decorations in the lower branches. Protect your family ornaments by securely fastening them in the upper branches. Try choosing ornaments that are less most likely to shatter. A dog-proof Christmas tree makes for a very happy and stress-free holiday celebration.

Things to avoid in the trees are anything edible, especially chocolate, glass ornaments, bells, metal hooks, strings of popcorn, salt dough ornaments, and tinsel.

Decorate your tree with as few or no edible and glass ornaments as possible. Your dog might knock the tree over simply to get them and might get hurt on a broken ornament. Christmas decorations and baubles can likewise be swallowed and obstruct the gastrointestinal tract; some might even be toxic because they include chemicals that are harmful. Take extra care with your ornament purchases and avoid these hidden dangers.


Just do your best to keep hazardous foods, ornaments, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners out of your dog’s reach and if anything unusual happens, don’t hesitate to contact your trusted vet or animal hospital. We hope this article can help you prepare for a safe and happy holiday celebration with your family and your wonderful pets! Happy Holidays!

This article provides a summary view of some aspects you need to know about pets and how to protect them during the holidays. We recommend you take the time to talk in detail with one of our licensed veterinarians. They will provide the best suggestions and strategies for your pet. For an appointment please contact us at (416) 351-1212.