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.
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.
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.
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.