7 Dangerous Holiday Foods For Pets

Aside from the twinkling lights, gift-giving, and time with family, one other thing we like to look forward to during this season is feasting. But keep in mind that our pets cannot eat everything that we can. When you bring guests over, your friendly dog or cat may be waiting for scraps around the table. But warn your family and guests of the dangers that come from sneaking them a bite, as there are a number of dangerous holiday foods for pets to watch out for.

Chocolate

Although we may be stating the obvious, chocolate is one of the most toxic foods for pets. While cats seem to be less tempted by chocolate, dogs are notoriously attracted to this delicious sweet. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are toxic to both dogs and cats. Ingestion of small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.

Different forms of chocolate vary in their toxicity, with dry cocoa powder at the top of the list, followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is for your pet. Any type of dessert that contains chocolate, such as brownies or chocolate chip cookies, should not be fed to pets.

Sugar-Free Items With Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute in chewing gum, candy, peanut butter, store-bought baked goods, and other foods. A 2010 academic paper collected data on xylitol toxicosis in dogs in the U.S., finding that 2500 cases were reported in 2008. Xylitol is toxic to dogs and can cause low blood sugar and liver toxicity. Ingestion will cause a rapid and massive insulin release in dogs, leading to weakness, seizures, and vomiting. Pet owners should examine labels closely, especially on sugar-free products. Instead of being listed as “Xylitol,” it is sometimes listed as “Sugar Alcohol,” so be wary of both terms.

Raisins and Grapes

Salads, baked goods, or even savory dishes can have raisins or grapes in them. However, raisins or grapes can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs and ingesting even small amounts can be fatal for both cats and dogs.  Initial signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactive behavior. After 24 hours, the pet may become lethargic and depressed. While raisins are more toxic to dogs than grapes, it is extremely important to keep any food items containing either away from your pet.

Coffee

Any type of caffeine is toxic for pets. It can cause seizures, heart arrhythmias, and even death. Therefore, caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea, can be dangerous. If you serve coffee or tea to any of your guests, advise them to keep their mugs away from your dog or cat.

Alcohol

At safe and reasonable amounts, alcohol is fun and bubbly, but be extra careful to keep it away from pets. Even for humans, alcohol poisoning is a serious issue. For our fluffy companions, who are much smaller in body mass and lack tolerance, alcohol is significantly more toxic. Alcohol can lead to staggering, decreased reflexes, slowing respiratory rate, cardiac arrest, and even death.

Onions and Garlic

Fragrant and delicious, onions and garlic are found in many holiday dishes to provide some flavor, kick, and seasoning. However, they both contain thiosulphate, which causes red blood cells to burst in cats and dogs. This can possibly lead to something called hemolytic anemia, where red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made. Side effects of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and lethargy.

The good news is that a small bite of food flavored with onion or garlic will not cause problems in most pets. Ingestion of large quantities, however, such as an entire clove of garlic, can be serious. Garlic has much less thiosulphate than onions, but it is recommended that both are kept away from dogs and cats. In particular, cats are more sensitive to garlic.

Ham and Bacon

Ham, bacon, and other pork products are high in fat content and difficult for pets to digest. They can cause pancreatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Even small portions of ham or bacon can contribute a disproportionately large amount of calories and fat to a dog or cat’s diet.

We hope that your holidays will not be interrupted by concerning signs of distress in your pet. Be sure to review this list of dangerous holiday foods for pets before a gathering or party and inform your guests of the involved risks. If you begin to suspect that your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, call a professional veterinary clinic, like Cherrelyn Animal Hospital, immediately.

Should You Worry About Poisonous Christmas Plants For Your Pet?

When the holiday season rolls around, we all love a festive plant to spruce up the atmosphere of our living spaces. If you have a dog or cat, chances are that he or she will be curious about the new addition to the home. They might even sniff, chew, or rub their bodies against the plant. But this is where things can get dicey. As a pet owner, it’s important to know the truth about poisonous Christmas plants for your furry friends.

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are notorious for being the most deadly plant for pets. However, this is not quite the case. It is true that their brightly colored leaves contain a sap that irritates the tissues of the mouth and esophagus. Ironically, this very sap naturally deters ingestion. This means that even if your dog or cat eats the leaves, they will most likely ingest a very small amount due to the unpleasant sensation that results. In the case that these leaves are ingested, mild nausea, vomiting, and drooling will ensue. The good news is that it is unlikely for more serious problems to develop.

Christmas Trees

Dogs and, in particular, cats are charmed by the appearance of a brightly lit Christmas tree in the living room. However, there are some risks to keep in mind. Fir trees produce oils that can be irritating to a pet’s mouth and stomach. These oils can cause excessive vomiting or drooling. If many needles are ingested, there is a risk of gastrointestinal tract irritation, obstruction, and puncture.

Furthermore, drinking Christmas tree water can cause mild vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea. The presence of fertilizers, bacteria, or mold in the water can quickly cause sickness in your pet.

Mistletoe and Holly

Mistletoe and holly are iconic Christmas plants. Sadly, however, the leaves and berries of these two plants are generally more dangerous to pets than poinsettias and Christmas trees. Symptoms include intestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain.

The ingestion of mistletoe is particularly worrisome for dogs and cats. Mistletoe is well known for causing severe intestinal upset, a sudden drop in blood pressure, breathing problems, and even hallucinations. If a lot is ingested, seizures and even death may result.

To be safe, we recommend that holly and mistletoe be kept well out of your house altogether. For the safety of your pets, opt for the imitation version of these plants.

Amaryllis

Many enjoy the vibrant and eye-catching bulbs of the Amaryllis, which blossom into red, white, or pink flowers during the Christmas season. However, this beloved and beautiful plant is strongly toxic for dogs and cats. If the flowers and leaves are ingested, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, lethargy, or tremors may occur. Be warned, though, that the bulbs are actually the most toxic. It can cause even more severe symptoms, such as seizures and changes in blood pressure.

Christmas Cactus

Generally, the Christmas cactus is considered a non-toxic plant. If it is ingested, mild vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea may occur. Thankfully, severe symptoms are not expected.

Poisonous Christmas Plants, In Short

Please be advised, that the consumption of any plant material may cause gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. Some plants may cause life-threatening problems for your pets, while others will not. For a look at the complete list, please refer to this ASPCA database.

Keep in mind, however, that some plants have been treated with pesticides. In these cases, all ingestion may be potentially dangerous. Due to their small body mass, puppies and kittens are at highest risk for complications.

Furthermore, cats are generally able to jump to high shelves on their own. For this reason, we recommend that, at least for poisonous Christmas plants, pet owners choose imitation versions over the real ones. If you do choose to bring any of these plants into your home, be sure to place them strategically and properly train your pet to avoid eating them. If you find your pet displaying any symptoms or evidence of ingestion, call a trusted animal healthcare provider, like Cherrelyn Animal Hospital, immediately.