Albany Blog

‘Tis the season to be jolly, let’s keep it that way!

By November 25, 2022No Comments

Being aware of the hazards that surround us at this time of year will help us to enjoy the festive season with our pets, keep them safe and avoid any unexpected trips to the vets!

Seasonal hazards

Decorations, tinsel and ribbons – these can be swallowed and become entangled in intestines causing life-threatening blockages. Salt-dough decorations are toxic if consumed due to their high salt content.

Christmas trees – many cats feel compelled to climb Christmas trees, it’s advisable to ensure that trees are securely based to reduce the risk of them toppling. Pine needles can be dangerous if they are stood on or ingested.

Batteries – if chewed and swallowed, they can cause an obstruction, chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. Store them safely.

Toys- keep an eye on where children leave their new toys, small parts can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockages.

Antifreeze – if ingested, Ethylene glycol can cause kidney failure and cats are particularly at risk.

Rock salt – used on roads and pavements during the winter to melt ice. Pets that have walked on surfaces treated with rock salt may then lick their feet and ingest rock salt. This could cause thirst, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea. Eating lumps of rock salt could result in severe poisoning with convulsions and coma. Rock salt can also cause skin irritation.

Edible hazards

Christmas dinners – these can cause an upset tummy.

Bones from our food – cooked bones are brittle and therefore can splinter when chewed. This can lead to a pierced digestive tract or an obstruction.

Onions, including gravy and stuffing – these can cause gastrointestinal upset and lead to red blood cell damage and anaemia. Leeks, garlic and spring onions can also have the same effects.

Grapes, sultanas, raisins, currants, mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake – these are very toxic and can cause kidney failure.

Xylitol- this common artificial sweetener is toxic to dogs even in small quantities and can cause blood sugar levels to plummet and liver damage.

Chocolate – contains Theobromine which is toxic to pets. Signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, panting, hyperactivity, restlessness, thirst, increased heart rate, tremors and convulsions.

Alcohol – even in small quantities, can be lethal to pets. It can cause vomiting, disorientation, high body temperature, restlessness, excessive panting, abnormal breathing, increased thirst, lethargy, muscle tremors, seizures and paralysis.

Nuts – some are toxic, all carry a risk of gastrointestinal upset.

Leftovers – toxic substances are produced by mould.



To minimise these risks:

Do not leave food or drink lying around and dispose of leftovers

As well as not feeding scraps with bones in, ensure pets do not tear open bin bags or scavenge bones from bins

Avoid chocolate tree decorations and don’t leave edible gifts under the Christmas tree

Be mindful when preparing food, cooking or baking and try to prevent access to these foods

Store products in their original containers, out of sight and reach of your pets. Always replace lids securely.

Clean up spills

Wash paws after a winter walk

Always seek immediate veterinary attention if your pet consumes anything hazardous, even if they are showing no signs.


Potential worries for your pets:


Christmas festivities often involve visitors to our homes and not all pets enjoy this experience. Ensure your pet has a safe space to which they can retreat. For dogs this could be a different room, or a corner or crate they are used to and feel comfortable in. Cats naturally observe from afar. If your cat runs and hides when someone enters your home, it’s because they feel they may in danger. It is important to allow this natural response and ensure your cat is able to hide if they feel they need to.

Keep your visitors in check! Ensure that they give your pet’s the space that they need and never bring a pet out of their hiding place against their will.



These pretty, but very often noisy illuminations can be a really big problem for our pets. Recognise your pets’ needs – if you have a pet scared of fireworks, identify how they cope and be prepared to support them. You can find helpful tips here.

Being left alone

If some of your festive plans don’t include your pets, give some thought to how you can make their time alone comfortable.

Dogs, like us, are very social animals and usually prefer our company to that of their own. As a general rule, they should be left for no more than four hours, but this does depend on the individual (for example, this would be far too long for a puppy). If you’re popping out for a while, help to keep them relaxed and comfortable by

giving them a long walk before you leave – this will give them the opportunity to toilet and will burn off some energy hopefully meaning they will be more likely to snooze some their alone time away!

providing a familiar comfy bed or dog den

ensuring access to fresh drinking water

not making a fuss when you leave or return

leaving a radio on for some quiet background noise

giving long lasting treats, eg a stuffed Kong or lick mat


Our feline friends are far more independent! They might not even notice you’ve been gone for a few hours, however always ensure

a steady supply of food – automatic feeders are good for those moggies with the inability to regulate their own feeding, this will help to watch those waistlines!

water bowls are available in multiple locations, this will mean that if there’s a spillage, your cat will still have access to drinking water

access to a clean litter tray


You might also like to provide a scratching post for entertainment (save your wallpaper and furnishings!).



All of us at Albany Veterinary Clinic wish you a peaceful and enjoyable festive season!