Pets and Christmas


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … kinda. This is going to be my second Australian Christmas and my first Christmas with Oliver! I am still getting used to the stark differences with Christmas back home. It is not just the weather that is different, but everyone’s attitudes and the atmosphere. The biggest difference of all for me is that as an emergency veterinarian, I will be working and it will be the busiest day of the year for us at Perth Vet Emergency. That is because here in Australia, Christmas is a day for doing things with the whole family, including the pets and accidents happen. And because your general practice veterinarian is closed, that means you’ll end up on our door step. So here is some advice on navigating the mine field that is Christmas:


Everyone knows that cats love playing with ribbon and string. From an evolutionary point of view, it is not dissimilar to chasing the tail of some small prey. This is why they also love to eat it. And unfortunately, ribbon or string is one of the most common gastrointestinal foreign body surgeries that we perform in cats. So if there is ribbon or string on any of your presents, be sure to put it in the rubbish promptly. And if you are playing with your cat with the ribbon or string, be sure to put it away afterwards.


This is a favourite holiday season treat and the most well known toxin to dogs. Dark chocolate is worse than milk chocolate and white chocolate is almost never toxic, however, always contact your veterinarian for specific advice if your dog has eaten chocolate.

However, there can sometimes be more to a chocolate toxicity than meets the eye as sometimes other ingredients are also toxic to our furbabies. A popular flavour of chocolate is fruit’n’nut, which may contain raisins and macadamia nuts, which can both be toxic to dogs. So be sure to also let your veterinarian know exactly what chocolate they have gotten into and ideally bring the packet if they haven’t eaten that too (yes, I have seen that happen).

Also, due to the high fat content of dark chocolate, this can also trigger an episode of pancreatitis in some dogs so we always need to be considerate of that too.


There is an expression in Ireland to never show up somewhere with one arm as long as the other. It is a fancy way of saying have a present in your hand for the host. If anyone else is like myself, I will often bring flowers for the hosts and one of the most popular flowers in any bouquet are lilies. Unfortunately, many pets explore the world with their noses and cats are no exception to this. If cats ingest any of the pollen, even just licking it off their nose or paws, it can be highly toxic to their kidneys. So please be very cautious regarding lilies in any household with cats in them.

Not mince pies!? NOT THE MINCE PIES!?! These are easily my favourite Christmas treat and my mum is well known to hide them from me so there would be some left for guests back home. These little delicious goodies though pose two risks to your dog. Similar to what I mentioned about chocolate, these will often contain raisins and nuts, which can both be toxic to dogs so if you suspect your little munchkin has gotten into the munchies, be sure to contact your veterinarian to find out what to do next.


One of my favourite things about Christmas is the Christmas tree. Of course, no tree is truly decorated until the lights are turned on. Please be careful though, as both cats, rabbits and sometimes even dogs, are known to be entranced by the extra wires floating around similar to ribbon and will sometimes chew through them. They can unfortunately do some serious damage to themselves from mild electric shock to much more serious injuries though. So be sure to have those cables tidied away so there is no temptation for them.


It is of course, the great Australian tradition to “throw a few shrimp on the barbie” on Christmas day! (Did your blood just boil? Don’t worry, I know that’s an urban legend and that no Australian has ever actually said that other than on television). But genuinely, the Australian barbecue is a big part of Christmas and the summer period. There are two very important risks that the barbecue poses for our pets though. The drip tray with all the fat is a gold mine for your dog. However, a very high fatty snack like that, can trigger an episode of pancreatitis in many dogs, which can often result in a couple of days in hospital. Especially at the beach, people will often pour the fat drip tray out onto the sand. Unfortunately, dogs are not always the smartest and will still eat it, including the sand, even days later. They then present to the emergency room with two problems pancreatitis and a sand impaction. Just imagine having sand paper being pulled through your intestines: Not comfortable or pretty. So even if there are no dogs around at the time, be sure to dispose of it responsibly.

So keeping all of this in mind, please have a safe Christmas, and look after your little furbabies who really don’t know any better.

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