Common Christmas Foods You Should NEVER Give Your Pet

And How to Treat them the RIGHT Way This Christmas!

Last Updated 9 DEC 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.

'Tis the season to be jolly! With the festive season upon us, it's time to untangle the Christmas lights, get together with family, and eat an embarrassing amount of delicious food.

However, while you're clinking your champers and popping the Christmas crackers, it's important to be aware which delicious festive foods pose a danger to our furry friends. Read our guide below to common Christmas dangers, and see which treats are safe for pets!

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Dangerous Christmas Foods
Pet-Safe Treat Options

Which human food is 'just for humans'?

Mmm, Christmas food... Roast turkey, king prawns, ham off the bone, fruit cake, pavlova - is there anything more comforting? While you prepare your tastebuds for a comfort-food-extravaganza, it's important to remember that human food should only be eaten by humans. Some popular festive foods that should be kept well out of reach of your furry friend include:

Ham and fatty offcuts

It may seem strange that dogs (who many believe to be carnivores) can have a bad reaction to eating meat, but the culprit here is an overdose of fat, which can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is actually one of the most common illnesses that vet clinics are inundated with at Christmas time.

Why does this happen? Leftover ham, sausages, or the fatty offcuts from a Christmas turkey contain a lot more fat than your dog's body is used to ingesting in one go. In an effort to digest all this fat, the pancreas can quickly go into overdrive and become painful, inflamed, and swollen in a condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can cause vomiting, nausea, dehydration, and worsening illness. It can even leave your dog with a lifelong sensitivity to fat, and you will be left having to feed them a special therapeutic diet for the rest of their life. Best to resist the urge to 'treat' your dog and save the meat for your own leftover lunch on Boxing Day!

Macadamia nuts

Whether they're part of a fruit cake, within a delicious slab of boutique chocolate, or just as a tasty treat on their own, macadamia nuts are highly poisonous to dogs. While the exact cause of the toxicosis is unknown, signs of macadamia nut poisoning include an inability to walk or stand, wobbly gait, tremors, hyperthermia, and vomiting. If encased in their shell, they can also pose a risk as a gastrointestinal foreign body. Yikes! Be sure to keep these crunchy morsels out of reach!

Grapes, sultanas and raisins

Often found on Christmas day within a fruit cake, fruit platter, or as part of a spiced meat sauce, grapes and their dehydrated versions can actually cause kidney failure in cats and dogs. The exact mechanism of this is unknown, so it is impossible to calculate a universal toxic dose. Best to keep them out of reach!


Just like small children, cats and dogs are much more sensitive to alcohol than adult humans and can become poisoned very quickly. Alcohol is absorbed rapidly by the canine and feline body, and symptoms may include ataxia (walking wobbly), vomiting, decreased body temperature, loss of consciousness, or difficulty breathing.

Onions and Garlic

If you'll be roasting some onion or garlic along with your Christmas turkey, best to also keep these away from your pets as they contain a toxin which can cause damage to your dog's red blood cells. If enough red blood cells are destroyed, your dog could become anaemic, lethargic and weak.


While they're not a food, we thought we'd include Lilies in our list, as many people give and receive flowers around the holidays. Lily flower petals, pollen and leaves are extremely toxic to cats. The toxin found in Lily plants causes kidney failure. If possible, do not keep lilies in your house if you have a cat - it's just not worth the risk!


Most pet owners these days are fairly clued in to the dangers of chocolate in pets. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both toxic to cats and dogs as they can't metabolise these compounds as well as humans can. Dark chocolate poses a higher risk than milk chocolate. Signs of chocolate toxicity may include vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, tremors, and coma.

The risk of chocolate toxicity directly depends on your pet's weight, how much they ate, and how dark it was. If your pet has ingested chocolate, you can calculate their risk of toxicity by inputting their weight, the type of chocolate, and how much was ingested into an online chocolate toxicity calculator.

Give them a treat of their own

Not sure what treat to give your pet to keep them away from your Christmas lunch? Here are some of our favourites:

1. Treats to keep them occupied

Occupier treats are the perfect option for keeping your dog out of the way on Christmas day (and particularly during Christmas lunch!). Keeping your pet away from the table is perhaps the safest option if you don't trust members of your family not to sneak them some food under the table. ('But he looked like he was hungry! I didn't know that he would start vomiting! It was only a handful of ham fat and half a slice of chocolate cake!').

The range from Nature's Cuts contains natural offcuts such as Goat Horn, Beef Ears and Pork Lung Bites. Their range of ears is particularly varied, with With Pork, Beef, and Lamb ears available - there is something for every sized pooch. Not only will these keep your dog occupied for hours and provide a great distraction from your Christmas lunch, but they're generally byproducts from the meat industry - making them a more sustainable option compared to other types of treats.

2. A low-fat treat for the pudgy or sensitive tummy pooch

Just because your pet has a sensitive tummy or is on the heavy side doesn't mean they should miss out on all the fun! The Whimzees Natural Treats are vegetarian and gluten free, and are even suitable for most dogs with a history of pancreatitis (but just check with your vet first!). For more suggestions on low-fat treats, see our article on Managing Pancreatitis in Dogs.

Whimzees Hedgehog treats are all-natural, plant-based, and wheat and gluten-free. These highly digestible chews contain no artificial colours and help keep your pooch's breath fresher by helping to reduce tartar and plaque build up as they chew.

3. A treat to clean their teeth

Dental chews are a great option for Christmas day, as they will help give your pet a bit of a tooth brush while they enjoy their Christmas gift! Great dental treats for cats include Greenies, and for dogs we can't go past the plant-based Whimzees.

Dental chews work by acting almost like a toothbrush: the action of chewing and grinding the teeth against a hard surface mechanically removes plaque and tartar. The longer your dog chews and grinds their teeth on the treat, the better the dental care. However, this does mean that treats that are swallowed quickly have no real dental benefit.

Greenies dental chews are available for both cats and dogs. They are made from highly digestible, balanced ingredients, fortified with added vitamins, minerals, taurine and chlorophyll, and have a chewy and flexible texture for extra fun.

Shop All Dental Treats

4. Teeny training tidbits

Whether you're teaching a puppy some basic commands, or training your cat how to walk on a lead, it's always a good idea to have some training treats on hand. They're particularly handy on Christmas Day for dispensing to loose-fingered family members!

The ideal training treat should be highly palatable, small - or able to be broken into small pieces - and easy to transport. For dogs, liver and jerky treats can be very effective. For cats, liquid pate-style treat tubes work incredibly well as cats seem to love the unique texture!

Shop All Training Treats

5. A treat for our feline friends

While the aforementioned occupier chews and rawhide treats are fine for cats, most felines don't tend to go for them. Greenies are known for being highly palatable and come in a variety of flavours including catnip! Another tasty option is the range from Zeal, a New Zealand-made line of natural treats with Fish Skins. Or perhaps your cat has an ailment, such as stiff joints or dull fur? The treat range from Vetalogica has options that are infused with beneficial ingredients to support a specific health concern.

6. Fruit and Veggies

Don't overthink it! Most fruit and vegetables are completely safe for pets, and offer a low calorie, low fat option for our furry friends. See below for a list of safe and dangerous fruit and vegetables for cats and dogs.


  • ✓ Apple (no seeds)
  • ✓ Banana
  • ✓ Blueberry
  • ✓ Carrots
  • ✓ Celery
  • ✓ Cucumber
  • ✓ Green Beans
  • ✓ Mango (seed removed)
  • ✓ Melons (all varieties)
  • ✓ Peach
  • ✓ Pears (seed removed)
  • ✓ Potato
  • ✓ Pumpkin
  • ✓ Strawberries
  • ✓ Raspberries
  • ✓ Zucchini


  • ✗ Avocado
  • ✗ Cherries
  • ✗ Garlic
  • ✗ Grapes
  • ✗ Green potatoes
  • ✗ Mushrooms
  • ✗ Onions

With all this in mind, you and your fur baby will be able to have a happy, healthy Christmas free from any unexpected vet visits!

You might also be interested in:

Dangerous Foods for Dogs

What is the best treat for your dog?

How to tell if your dog has a food allergy

Summer Dangers: Avoid heatstroke in pets

Dental Care for Cats