Elf & Safety: What not to give your dog at Christmas (or ever)

’Tis is the season of love and sharing, so why wouldn’t you reward your dog’s excellent work in begging this year? The problem is, it’s also the season of going to the emergency vet with tummy problems or worse. Wunderdog speaks to our vet to get the list of no-nos

David Rubiera-Conesa has been Wunderdog Pippa’s vet for around five years now. We love him because he has common sense: he doesn’t insist on a strict diet unless it is vital for the dog’s health, but he has spent many a Christmas break seeing dogs that have eaten entire boxes of chocolate, have turkey bones lodged in their guts or have swallowed human medication. To give David a break this year, here is a list of things to avoid.


The problem with gravy is that it can contain onions, garlic and leeks – not great for dogs. The gastrointestinal signs will be fairly visible coming out front and back, and Heinz body anaemia is also on the cards. The symptoms for this condition include fever, sudden weakness, red urine, pale gums and loss of appetite.

Christmas pudding

This dense cake contains grapes in the form of sultanas and currants, which can cause problems. Along with gastrointestinal signs, possible effects include hypersalivation, blood in poo or sick, ataxia and acute renal failure. Alongside chocolate, this is perhaps the most serious.

Peanuts, groundnuts and monkey nuts

Even though peanut-butter treats have become popular in the deli section of some dog-food stores, David would prefer it if we avoided nuts altogether. Peanuts, in particular, can cause gastrointestinal problems.


Most dog owners know not to give their dogs chocolate, but that doesn’t stop them from falling asleep on the couch while a big, yummy box of chocolates lies open on the coffee table. White chocolate is less problematic than darker varieties, but a visit to the vet will still be mandatory. Signs of chocolate indigestion will include the usual gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as drinking and urinating more, ataxia, hypertension and tachycardia [rapid heart beat].


No, a drunk dog is not funny. Not even a bit. Apart from the predictable upset stomach, expect ataxia and respiratory depression.


This is a favourite all year round, but with the turkey carcass lying around on the kitchen counter, the temptation at Christmas is huge. A bone is serious because it can obstruct and perforate the intestines. Vets may have to open the intestine to remove it. Look out for gastrointestinal symptoms, to begin with, and go to the vet as soon as possible.


Your dog may not have a hangover, but you might. And if you leave tablets lying around, you may get another headache on top: if your dog takes one, hepatic necrosis (basically a toxic injury to the liver), tachypnea and dyspnoea [shortness of breath due to methaemoglobinemia, a type of blood disorder], tachycardia and tachypnea, alongside vomiting, depression and hypothermia, are signs that you need to see your vet. Paracetamol is particularly problematic for dogs with ulcers.


Although it causes fewer signs than paracetamol, this is another over-the-counter drug that may help you but will certainly not help your dog. Alongside gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, ibuprofen can cause ulcers and renal failure.

Ethylene glycol 

Yes, antifreeze. Because it tastes sweet, some dogs like to lick it off cars. They might just as well jump straight in because it’s off to the vets for them. Central nervous signs such as ataxia, hyperexcitability, convulsions include depression and vomiting are all good indicators that your dog mistook the car for an ice-lolly. The longer you delay, the more critical the condition becomes, with heavier breathing setting in after around 12 hours and the possibility of renal failure after a day.

The list may be long, but to have a safe Christmas is not that hard: put the bad stuff out of reach for furry people, and have an extra slice of turkey ready to reward that good begging.

Have a very merry Christmas!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *