What Should I Do If My Pet Is Unwell This Christmas?


With over forty years of experience in veterinary practice, we have seen a whole host of festive fiascos. Here are our tips on how to avoid a blue Christmas and enjoy the celebrations safely. 


It must be every pet owner’s worst nightmare, the relatives are due to appear any second, the turkey is in the oven….and the dog has just vomited up half a fidget spinner and something looking suspiciously like a chocolate orange wrapper and one of Uncle Bob’s cigars! 


Crikey, the vet won’t be open today … will they? 


The good news is, like our own cat-only clinic your vet will have an emergency care provision 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. That includes Christmas and every other bank holiday of the year. 


How will I know if my pet requires emergency care?


You know your own pet, and chances are you will know when something is wrong and they need medical help. ALWAYS ring your veterinary team or their designated emergency care provider if you are concerned. They would much rather put your mind at rest with a quick phone consult than have your pet sitting at home with a possible medical emergency and you worrying if they need to be seen or not.



Some of the most common emergencies, requiring immediate care include;


  • Excessive bleeding, or any continuous bleeding for more than five minutes.

  • Blood from the mouth, nose, rectum, blood in the urine or coughing up blood

  • Difficulty breathing, continuous coughing or gagging or blue gums

  • Injury to the eye

  • Pain or difficulty passing urine or faeces or unproductive straining

  • Suspected ingestion of a foreign body or toxin e.g. antifreeze, chocolate, rat poison (more details below)

  • Refusal to eat or drink for 24 hours or more

  • Staggering or seizures

  • Severe lameness, not bearing weight or obvious fracture of bones

  • Unconsciousness or collapse

  • Severe vomiting or diarrhoea e.g. frequent or inability to keep food or water down

  • Bloating of the abdomen 

  • Obvious signs of pain, distress or anxiety

  • Heat stress or heat stroke (uncommon during cold months but included for completeness)


Please note this list is NOT exhaustive, if you are genuinely concerned about your pet contact your veterinarian.


How do I contact my Out of Hours care provider?


First, ring your veterinary practice on their usual contact number, they will leave details on their answering service of how to contact the out of hours vet. This could be a vet or nurse from your clinic team or a local emergency care centre. You may also find details on your practice website or social media pages.


You may not see your regular veterinarian but you will have access to a qualified vet professional, medication, hospital facilities and be rest assured all medical notes will be passed back to your usual vet. 


Which common hazards do I need to avoid at Christmas time?


If you think your pet may have ingested a toxin remember, SPEED:

  • Stop the pet from eating any more suspected poison.

  • Phone the vets.

  • Emergency appointment.

  • Evidence – bring labels/samples/vomit.

  • Don’t delay.

The most common Christmas hazards include;


Medication – keep any human medication out of reach, our pets process these drugs differently from us. Many can be harmful or even deadly


Xylitol – an artificial sweetener also known as E967 can be fatal to drops even in small amounts. Xylitol can be found in sweets, jams, peanut butter and even toothpaste


Batteries – Lithium button batteries pose the greatest risk, but alkaline batteries also need intervention ASAP.


Mouldy food – Mycotoxins found in mouldy food raided from the bin can be lethal to pets. 


Yuletide plants – Many plants and flowers used to decorate our homes are toxic to our pets. These include poinsettia, mistletoe, holly, amaryllis, ivy, Christmas cactus and of course lilies.


Decorations – Pets can be attracted to the bright colours, lights and textures of decorations. If chewed these can cause intestinal blockage and even electrocution. Salt dough decorations also pose a high risk.


Onions and garlic –  both members of the allium family, and extremely toxic to pets. Beware of gravy granules as these too include onion and garlic powder.


Nicotine – Including vape and e-cigarettes is bad news for our pet’s health too and needs immediate attention from a vet.


Alcohol toxicity – this can also occur from eating unbaked bread dough, the yeast ferments in your pet’s stomach!


Chocolate toxicity – the darker the chocolate the higher the theobromine content, a compound toxic to our pets as they are unable to process it. So a relatively small amount of dark chocolate can be toxic, whereas white chocolate would need to be consumed in huge quantities before causing concern. 


Grapes – This includes currants, raisins and sultanas are toxic to our pet’s causing kidney failure even from a small quantity. 


The Animal Poison Line is an advice line run by the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) and is the only 24-hour specialised emergency telephone service in the UK dedicated to helping pet owners who are worried their pet may have been exposed to something harmful or poisonous. They can be contacted 24/7 on 01202 509 000 there is a fee payable at the time of the call, for more details click the link. 




What can I do to prepare for any potential problems?


Just like making a Christmas dinner, preparation is the key! Hopefully, you won’t need to reach for the phone or make a late-night visit to the vet with a case of tinselitis, but just in case the following steps are a sensible idea;


  • Make your home as ‘hazard proof’ as possible

  • Order any repeat medication your pet needs in advance

  • Save your vet clinic’s number to your phone, if they provide an emergency number save that too. 

  • Ensure your vet clinic is kept up to date with any change of address, phone number or insurance policy. 

  • Make sure your insurance policy document details are up to date and easy to find

  • Make sure your pet’s microchip details are correct, mishaps can happen while visiting relatives and pet’s get lost in a strange area.

  • If you are travelling to visit family remember to pack your pet’s essentials too and note the details of a local vet.


Please remember, ALWAYS contact your vet if worried about your pet. Speaking from experience, we would rather be telling you ‘It’s nothing to worry about’ than ‘I wish you had contacted me last night’



From Paul, Sarah and all the Petstoreo team we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year. We are sure Santa Paws will put you on the nice list, you can browse our cat collection and dog collection of Petstoreo products via the hyperlinks.