Dangerous foods your pets should avoid this Christmas

Christmas is a time to get together with family and friends and indulge a little. Whether it is food, alcohol or presents, it’s easy to overindulge during the festive season. While you prepare your tastebuds for a Christmas food-extravaganza, it's important to remember that human food should only be eaten by humans.

Cats and dogs have different digestive systems, so while that extra biscuit or piece of ham might not hurt us, it can be harmful to pets. The following is a list of common foods your ‘fur babies’ should avoid at Christmas time.

Milk, cheese, and dairy: Dairy products can affect your pet in various ways. Some dogs can eat dairy without a problem, whereas others experience acute pain and allergic reactions. Cats cannot generally ingest any dairy products as most are lactose intolerant.

Grapes, sultanas and raisins: Grapes, sultanas and raisins are often found on Christmas day within fruit cakes, fruit platters and biscuits. 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. The level of toxicity for cats is unknown, but vets advise keeping grapes and raisins out of reach. Seek veterinary advice immediately if ingested.

Ham and fatty offcuts: Pancreatitis is actually one of the most common illnesses that vet clinics are inundated with at Christmas time. It’s hard to believe that dogs, who are actually Omnivores, can have a bad reaction to eating meat. The culprit here is an overdose of fat, which can cause pancreatitis.

Chocolate: Chocolate and other caffeinated food and drinks contain a substance called theobromine which is toxic to cats and dogs causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, muscle tremors and seizures.

Garlic and onions: Raw garlic and onions can cause gastrointestinal problems and anemia if eaten in large volumes. Small amounts are unlikely to cause any issues but prolonged consumption can lead to digestive issues.

Alcohol: Tis the season to be jolly, and we tend to celebrate the festive season with beer, wine and bubbles. According to the AVA though, even small amounts of alcohol can kill a pet. Half-empty glasses, spilled drink, even fermented fruit and other foods can be harmful. Make sure you keep them out of reach.

Cooked bones: Cooked bones are not suitable for your cat or dog as they can splinter and cause internal damage. Only feed your pet raw meat and bones as there is less chance of injury, and most cats and dogs have a carnivorous diet.

Artificial sweeteners: Eating artificial sweeteners (like Xylitol) should be avoided. Xylitol - found in many baked goods, toothpaste and gum - can be very harmful to cats and dogs. It can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels and the onset of hyperglycemia. The reactions are most severe in cats, but artificial sweeteners can also cause liver failure, seizures, convulsions, and death in dogs.

Macadamia nuts: As little as a few macadamia nuts can make your pets ill. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, hyperthermia, muscle tremors and paralysis. Some other types of nuts, including walnuts, can also be toxic to your pets. Avocados: It’s avocado season and they are a popular Christmas food. But they also contain a toxin which can damage the heart, lungs and tissue of many different animals, including dogs. Fortunately, the effect in dogs is usually mild – definitely keep avocados away from any pet birds though!

Treatment and prevention: Contact a vet if your pet has eaten any of the above foods. Try and gauge how much they have eaten as this can assist in providing appropriate treatment. The easiest way to avoid having to treat your pet is through prevention