How to keep your dog safe this Christmas

BBQ skewers, grapes, avocado and chocolate are all toxic to dogs.

BBQ skewers, grapes, avocado and chocolate are all toxic to dogs.

We all love Christmas and dogs are family members that deserve to be spoilt too. But we really need to be careful with our choice of K9 presents, and extra careful with what they eat.

Here is a list of 10 common items of food that are such a big part of the Aussie Festive Season, but they can be harmful or even deadly to our dogs.

  1. Wooden BBQ Kebab Skewers: dogs will chew up and swallow the used wooden skewers. In the gut, they easily perforate the gut wall causing a rapid peritonitis followed by a very painful death.

  2. Alcohol: was never meant to be given to dogs. The amount we consume to make us ‘merry’, is enough to make a dog very ill.

    It can cause:

    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhoea
    • Dehydration
    • Pancreatitis
    • Death
  3. Onions: any type of onion eaten by dogs can cause what is known as ‘Heinz body anaemia’, which results from destruction of red blood cells. Often a little onion is harmless, but it should be considered dangerous to dogs, regardless of the amount eaten. A dog that is going to be affected may do so with as little as the amount of onion on 1 slice of pizza, or if the dog consumes small amounts on a regular basis.

    Presenting signs seen include:

    • Vomiting
    • Weakness
    • Loss of appetite
    • Lack of interest in their surrounds
    • Breathlessness (from the reduction in oxygen carrying red blood cells)

    Many foods contain onion, including onion powder, flakes or salt. It is recommended to never feed onion to dogs.

  4. Christmas cake, grapes and raisins: any fruit from the grape family (including sultanas and wine products), either fresh or dried can be deadly to dogs. The consumption of them can cause acute renal failure (rapid kidney failure). Vets have established that this toxicity occurs from the fruit, but have several theories on exactly what causes it.

    Presenting signs seen include:

    • Vomiting and diarrhoea – are the early signs and there may be some of the fruit in the vomit and stool
    • Lethargy and depression
    • Loss of appetite
    • Increased drinking
    • Abdominal pain
    • Acute renal failure – occurs within 48 hours of ingestion

    Here is a fact: it takes as little as 10-30 grams of the fruit for every 10 kilograms of your dog’s body weight to cause this toxicity.

  5. Avocado: very healthful for us, but can be deadly for dogs. Firstly, the slippery seed is easily swallowed and can affect the dog 2 ways:

    1. It can choke a dog to death
    2. If it is swallowed and reaches the gut, it can cause a fatal obstruction, or requires surgical removal.

    The flesh of an avocado contains persin, a fungicidal toxin that comes from the seed. It is harmless to us, but may be toxic to dogs. It causes vomiting and diarrhoea which may be fatal.

  6. Corn Cobs: if swallowed can cause fatal choking, or cause an obstruction in the gut as they do not break down. Without surgical removal, death may occur.

  7. Chocolate: contains theobromine, a substance that is harmless to humans, but can be deadly to dogs. The darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it will be.

    Presenting signs include:

    • Vomiting and diarrhoea
    • Hyperactivity and hypersensitivity
    • Increased thirst
    • Excessive urination
    • Increased heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm
    • Trembling, muscle spasms, seizures
    • Cardiac arrest and death.

    If your dog consumes chocolate contact your vet immediately so they can help you to calculate how much chocolate was consumed and the effects it may have on your dog.

  8. Xylitol: this artificial sweetener is used in many human foods. Examples are sugar free sweets, gum, toothpaste, diet and sugar free foods, including some peanut butters. It affects insulin in the blood, dropping blood sugar and can cause acute liver failure within a few days of ingestion.

    Presenting signs are progressive:

    • Vomiting
    • Lethargy
    • Loss of coordination
    • Seizures
    • Death

    Please make sure that you check the ingredient list of foods that may contain xylitol to keep your dogs safe.

  9. Macadamia nuts: raw or roasted, they are great for us, but can be deadly for dogs. The exact reason for the poisoning is not clear, but it doesn’t take a lot of them to cause toxicity.

    Presenting signs include:

    • Depression
    • Vomiting
    • Muscle tremors
    • Weakness that leads to ataxia (unsteady, uncoordinated gait)
    • Paralysis – especially of the hindquarters
    • Fever
    • Rapid heart rate

    If the dog eats chocolate coated macadamia nuts, then the presenting signs worsen and may lead to death.

  10. Animal/vegetable fat: whether it is from the Christmas Ham, what you cooked the meat in, all can lead to gastritis (abdominal upset) or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

    Pancreatitis is often referred to as ‘Christmas disease’ as it is the time of year when vets see the highest number of pancreatitis cases.

    Presenting signs of gastritis:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhoea
    • Loss of appetite
    • Can lead to dehydration
    • Can cause other conditions like acute pancreatitis

    Presenting signs of acute pancreatitis:

    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Fever
    • Depression
    • Diarrhoea

    If a dog has had acute pancreatitis before, then it often doesn’t take much to cause it to reoccur.

    Fact: it can take as little as 1/2 a BBQ sausage to trigger an acute pancreatitis, which can be fatal.