Christmas treats dangerous for pets

December 15, 2010
Pet owners can avoid emergency visits to the vet over the holiday season by following a few simple guidelines. Credit: Lara Waldron.

Pet owners could avoid emergency visits to the vet over the holiday season by following a few simple guidelines from the staff of the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

"The last thing people want for their pets during the holiday season is an emergency," says the Head of School, Professor Gail Anderson.

In order to help and their pets enjoy a happy holiday, here are some things to be aware of:


"Chocolate may be full of antioxidants and good for humans in small doses but it is dangerous for our furry friends," Professor Anderson says.

"Chocolate contains ingredients toxic to dogs, namely theobromine and caffeine. Potentially lethal doses are as little as 7 grams of baking chocolate or 60 grams of milk chocolate per kilogram body weight in dogs. That is as little as a teaspoon per kilo of dark chocolate, so little dogs and pups are at greater risk.

"Signs of toxicity include vomiting and diarrhoea within a few hours of eating the chocolate, increased alertness and hyperactivity, then seizures and increased , with collapse and death possibly resulting within 12-36 hours of eating."

Professor Anderson says urgent treatment in these cases is needed, with hospitalisation and careful monitoring for at least 36 hours in some cases. "Obviously, the best thing is to be vigilant and not leave any chocolate unattended - that includes wrapped under the Christmas tree," she says.

Wrappers, ribbons and tinsel

"Pets eating foreign material such as paper, tinsel and ribbons is common at this time of year," Professor Anderson says. "All these things may appear as toys, especially to young animals or cats, and in their playfulness they may inadvertently swallow pieces of string or tinsel.

"This foreign material does not block the gut immediately but passes into the and can cause the gut to concertina on itself and cause obstruction slowly. The animal will go off food and vomit occasionally until the bowel is completely blocked, when vomiting will occur frequently and illness progresses rapidly."

Professor Anderson says the material must be removed surgically, in most cases requiring hospitalisation, intravenous fluid support and gut protective medications while the gut recovers.

"Being aware of how enticing ribbons, string and tinsel are to pets should make us wary and not allow them to play with these materials," she says.

Explore further: The dark chocolate version of Father Christmas is most filling

Related Stories

The dark chocolate version of Father Christmas is most filling

December 10, 2008

New research at the Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE) at the University of Copenhagen – shows that dark chocolate is far more filling than milk chocolate, lessening our craving for sweet, salty and fatty foods. In other words, ...

Nice but naughty -- our addiction to chocolate

September 11, 2007

Chocolate is the most widely and frequently craved food. People readily admit to being ‘addicted to chocolate’ or willingly label themselves as ‘chocoholics’. A popular explanation for this is that chocolate contains ...

Can chocolate lower your risk of stroke?

February 11, 2010

Eating chocolate may lower your risk of having a stroke, according to an analysis of available research that will be released today and presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April ...

Recommended for you

Male dolphins offer gifts to attract females

November 21, 2017

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have captured a rare sexual display: evidence of male humpback dolphins presenting females with large marine sponges in an apparent effort to mate.

Study identifies new malaria parasites in wild bonobos

November 21, 2017

Malaria parasites, although widespread among wild chimpanzees and gorillas, have not been detected in bonobos, a chimp cousin. Reasoning that previous studies may have missed infected bonobo populations, a team led by Beatrice ...

The strange case of the scuba-diving fly

November 20, 2017

More than a century ago, American writer Mark Twain observed a curious phenomenon at Mono Lake, just to the east of Yosemite National Park: enormous numbers of small flies would crawl underwater to forage and lay eggs, but ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2010
60 grams per kilogram!

So a 20lb dog would have to eat 1 full pound of chocolate. Sounds like much ado about nothing. Eating a pound of chocolate isn't easy (unless you're a chocohaulic) especially for a dog. There are 100s of other things a dog would rather eat.

In any case, the author didn't mention the obvious.

It's the "milk" in the chocolate that motivates the dog.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.