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Keep your pets healthy this holiday season

The holidays are upon us, and with celebrations comes plenty of seasonal cooking and baking with delicious meals, desserts and food gifts. As we are enjoying the bounty of the season, it’s tempting to share a tasty morsel of special food with our pets. But it’s important to remember that food treats can become food disasters for our companion animals, and wind you up with an unexpected holiday trip to your veterinarian.

As your guests arrive and the holidays move into full swing, keep your pet safe by paying extra attention to their food environment.


Chocolate, especially dark chocolate and cocoa, is dangerous for our pets. Chocolate contains certain ingredients that are toxic to our pets, including theobromine and caffeine. Chocolate ingestion is the number one food reason pet owners call poison control hotlines, and many pet hotlines report a big spike in phone calls about chocolate ingestion during the holidays. Dogs have a sweet tooth just like many of us and are drawn to sugary, high fat treats (and boxes of chocolate thoughtfully brought into your home by a guest). Watch out especially for chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Macadamia nuts

Most people don’t realize that macadamia nuts are problems for pets. The toxic ingredient in macadamia nuts has not yet been identified, but pet owners need to be careful about exposure. Macadamia nuts are high in fat as well, contributing to their potential harmful effects. Other nuts are not considered toxic.

Some vegetables

Onions, garlic, scallions and leeks are toxic to pets, too. Cats are particularly sensitive, as are some breeds of dogs (Akita, Shiba Inu, and breeds with inherited red blood cell problems). The toxic effects are cumulative, so clinical signs don’t show up for hours or days after ingestion.

Bread dough

Although alcohol (ethanol) is an obvious potential poison, many people don’t realize that raw bread dough also can result in ethanol poisoning. As the yeast grow, they produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. Eating rising dough can lead to both alcohol poisoning and stomach distention.

Grapes and raisins

Most people are aware that grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs, and some evidence suggests this fruit also may be toxic to cats. Even a small amount of material can be toxic to pets, so owners need to be vigilant about exposure to any type of raisin or grape, either raw or cooked.

High-fat foods

Although not specifically toxic, high-fat foods, such as gravy, turkey skin and butter, can cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Pancreatitis is a serious, and occasionally fatal, disease. Keep your pet away from any foods that have a high fatty content.

Particularly when guests are in the house and rich foods easily available, numerous innocent treats can quickly add up to a health emergency. If your pet is overindulged, or decides on their own to indulge in something other than their normal food, contact your veterinarian for advice. Pet emergency clinics also are good resources, and are equipped to deal with potential problems.

The holiday season is a time to give thanks for the love and companionship provided by our furry companions. By taking a few precautions, we can keep our pets healthy and happy for many more holiday seasons to come! Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving, from everyone at Morris Animal Foundation!

Categories: Animal health
November 25, 2015