Pet hero

How to avoid the naughty list this year – watch outs for furry friends at Christmas

Tuesday , 19 December 2023 by Polly Inch

With Southern Cross Pet Insurance (Southern Cross) claims data1 indicating that potentially a third of all New Zealand pooches are at risk of getting sick due to sniffing out chocolate treats... it’s time to remind pet owners (and anyone visiting over the festive season) that it’s less than ideal to put cocoa- based gifts under the tree.

It’s not just chocolate that poses a threat, there are dangers with other Christmas favourites too. Many New Zealanders (40 per cent) surveyed2 are unaware that raisins, currants and sultanas are unsafe for pets – meaning Christmas cake and fruit mince pies are also off the menu. What’s more, 30 per cent of us are unaware walnuts and macadamias are unsafe. Nut-mix gift packs and pre-lunch snacks should be kept well out of Fido’s reach.

Finally, 66 per cent say they feed their pets leftovers from their own plates or let them lap up spillages on the kitchen floor, which can contain onion, garlic, chicken or turkey bones, raw dough, or caffeine from a cup of tea or coffee.

This year, Southern Cross, and the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) launched the food safety Paws Off! symbol to use on food and beverage packaging, to warn humans which foods are ‘not ok’ to share with their beloved pets.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance National Sales Manager and former vet nurse Kerri Murray said, “We have paid out over $300,000 for pet insurance claims for treatment needed due to pet consumption of chocolate, raisins, and other harmful foods over the last year. The road to recovery can be very costly, especially if you don’t have insurance to help foot the bill for treatment.

“So, as our Christmas gift, we would love every food manufacturer, and marketer to use the Paws Off! symbol free of charge to help save pet lives.

“Our mission at Southern Cross is to protect the pet life, and through Paws Off! we can educate people about food safety easily and effectively. We want to change the way the people look after their pets.

“The symbol is like a ‘Not-tested-on-animals’ or ‘Don’t-drink-alcohol-when-pregnant’ sign, and it can let humans know in an instant when a product they love to eat is not safe for their pets. It’s available for free at, and we’d love everyone to use it.”

Looking for inspiration on how to spoil your pet safely this Christmas? How about some delicious dishes guaranteed to put you straight to the top of the nice list – healthy homemade pet treats.

The danger of chocolate for pets

  • Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine which is toxic for dogs and cats.
  • 100-150 mg of theobromine per kg (weight of pet) can be fatal.
  • A 500g bar of dark chocolate contains 300g of theobromine – the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains.
  • Signs to watch out for are:
    • Vomiting and diarrhoea
    • Tremors
    • Panting
    • Fast heart rate
    • Irregular heart rhythm


1 Southern Cross Pet Insurance claims data 2022 calendar year.
2 Research completed by Pure Profile in 2022.