It’s the question we’ve all asked our pet at one time or another. “What’s in your mouth?!” Generally followed by a frantic grab for the pet, and an immediate gulp from said pet. As the holidays approach, let’s take a look at some food items that can be dangerous for your pet!
- Chocolate! This probably isn’t a surprise to most people, but did you know that the darker the chocolate the worse the danger? A candy bar generally isn’t too bad, but a bar of chocolate for baking is a real problem. If you compound it with caffeine, such as a chocolate covered coffee bean, the symptoms become even more life threatening. What can you expect? In less severe cases, vomiting and diarrhea. In more severe cases you can expect tremors, seizures, high heart rate and heart arrhythmias.
- Grapes/Raisins. People with small children may find this to be a problem. Raisins and grapes are great snacks for kids, who love to share with the dog. Interestingly, we don’t actually know why grapes are toxic. They cause kidney failure, but not in all cases! Sometimes a dog will eat just one, and have severe illness. Sometimes a dog can eat a whole bunch and be perfectly fine. This is what we call an “idiopathic reaction”. That’s just a fancy way of saying “we don’t know who it will happen to, and we don’t know when it will happen.” Best to avoid them entirely.
- Bones. Dogs love to chew bones, right? Of course! But not all bones are created equal. Chicken, turkey, and pork/ham bones splinter easily, which can lead to sores in the mouth, or even perforation of the stomach and intestines. It’s best to avoid all bones during the holidays. Consider putting bones immediately into the outside garbage can. Some dogs are pretty persistent trash invaders!
- Xylitol. This artificial sweetener is debatably the most dangerous item on the list. Xylitol is found primarily in gums, but can also be found in other unexpected products. Xylitol causes a profound dip in blood sugar of animals, and can lead to seizures and complications with the liver.
- Macadamia nuts. Although not our most common snack, around the holidays a kind friend might gift you this tasty snack. Tasty for people, but for dogs this nut causes tremors, hyperthermia, vomiting, and depression. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts are a common holiday treat. Talk about a double whammy!
- Onions and garlic. It takes a large volume of onions and garlic to cause signs of toxicity. A few bites of casserole containing onions won’t cause illness, but larger volumes can lead to anemia (destruction of red blood cells). Cats are much more at risk than dogs. Remember that the greens are just as dangerous, so don’t let the cat munch the greens from the sprouted onion in your pantry!
- Anything fatty. Coconut oil, nuts, salty snacks, turkey drippings, dairy products and anything your pet is not used to can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and in more severe cases an inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis. In some cases, the symptoms are limited to stomach upset, but severe cases of pancreatitis can be life threatening.
- Salt. Sidewalk salt, homemade play dough, and salt dough ornaments contain large quantities of salt, which can make pets very sick if ingested. While salt in small quantities is ok, the amount of salt in these holiday items can lead to severe neurologic complications and dehydration. It’s best to keep these well out of reach of your pets.
- New and different treats. We all want to give our pets a special holiday snack. While this is fine most of the time, indulging your Chihuahua with a jumbo sized rawhide or a big meaty smoked bone can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Yes, new snacks are fine for dogs who don’t have allergies, but offer treats in moderation.
- Lilies. This blog post is about food, you’re thinking. No one eats lilies! Be that as it may, Lillies are so life threatening to cats, I’m going to include it in each blog post I make this holiday season! Although I love flowers very much, Lilies in all forms are my least favorite flower because of the threat they pose to felines. Simply grooming lily pollen off of the coat can cause profound, life threatening kidney failure in cats if not treated immediately and aggressively. The well meaning house guest who brings you a hostess gift of flowers should be thanked, and the flowers immediately closed behind the bathroom door or placed in the pantry. Don’t risk it!
While it doesn’t benefit anyone to live in fear over the holidays, remind your kids, relatives, and guests to avoid indulging a begging pet with table scraps and people food. Instead offer the pets some of their own treats or food (in moderation!). The holidays are stressful enough without a sick pet!