Turkey, chocolates, and punch, oh my! With the holiday season drawing near, chances are your house will be filled with all kinds of delicious and tantalizing food. While we’re trying to watch our weight, we also need to pay attention to the foods we give our pets. Below are fourteen holiday items that you should avoid allowing your dogs or cats to have. Some of them might surprise you!
- Turkey/chicken, skin, bones, stuffing, and gravy: If you give in and indulge your pet with turkey or chicken, give only a small piece. Overindulging can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea or even pancreatitis. Don’t give any raw or undercooked turkey or chicken, which may contain salmonella bacteria. Salmonella causes diarrhea and vomiting, along with fever and loss of appetite. Also, white meat is blander and easier to digest than dark. Skin on its own can be fatty, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting. During the holidays, turkey skin is extra bad because of all the butter, oils and spices rubbed into it. If you do share turkey with your pet, discard the skin.Bird bones are hollow and tend to splinter when chewed. Bone fragments can create blockages in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. Punctures in any of these will cause your pet to get seriously sick and might even require expensive surgery.Stuffing may contain garlic, onions, currants, or raisins, which are all toxic to our pets. If you want to treat your pet, it’s best to stick to vegetables without butter or salt. Stuffing might also include sage, a herb which can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive.
Gravy is high in fat and therefore can cause pancreatitis. Moreover, while onion is the worst offender, gravies come in many varieties, and the ingredients can be a cornucopia of toxicity for dogs and cats. Be safe and try substituting gravy with a little turkey broth.
- Ham, pork: The main problem with ham and pork are the amount of fat they contains, as many pets will develop digestive upset from eating excessively fatty foods. Ham also another problem, which is a high enough salt content to lead to neurologic problems. Salt can also lead to dehydration and sodium ion poisoning.
- Corn on the cob: The primary danger that corn on the cob presents to pets is the cob itself. Dogs in particular might swallow large chunks of cob, which can lodge in and obstruct their intestines.
- Mushrooms: There are several types of toxins in different types of mushrooms. These can cause anything from kidney and liver failure to delirium and hallucinations, to vomiting and diarrhea to seizures, coma and possibly death. The symptoms can start anywhere from 20 minutes to 8 hours after ingestion.
- Onions, garlic, and chives: These vegetables contain substances called disulphides, which damage the surface of red blood cells and cause them to burst. Cats are more susceptible to this disease than dogs. The result is a disease called Heinz body anemia. Consuming these vegetables may cause cats to become weak and breathless. Severely-affected cats may require a blood transfusion. Even those dogs who don’t develop Heinz body anemia from these vegetables can develop gastrointestinal irritation.
- Chocolate, caffeine: Both of these contain substances called methylxanthines which, when ingested by dogs, can cause a variety of adverse side-effects including seizures and death. While chocolate is a larger problem for dogs than cats, it contains theobromine, which can be poisonous for cats. Although most pet owners are aware of the danger of chocolate, I still included it because of all the holiday cookies and desserts which contain chocolate.Dogs and cats appear to be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than people. While one to two laps of coffee, tea, or soda doesn’t contain enough caffeine to cause poisoning in most pets, the ingestion of moderate amounts of coffee grounds or tea bags can easily cause death in small dogs or cats.
- Nuts: Certain nuts should not be given to pets, not even as part of candy and cookies. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion. While not toxic, almonds, pecans, and various other nuts can cause an upset stomach or an obstruction of your dog’s throat or intestinal tract. For walnuts, it’s a worse story. According to Nationwide Pet Insurance, walnut poisoning is one of the most common claims for toxic ingestion. The average cost to treat walnut poisoning is $419. Macadamia nuts can also be toxic, causing seizures or neurological signs. While a number of nuts are toxic to dogs, cats seem better able to handle them. Except for possibly causing some discomfort and minor side effects, the occasional indulgence in nuts will not warrant a trip to the emergency room for your cat. To read more, check out Bad Nuts for Dogs
- Avocados: When I first started researching foods for dogs and cats to avoid, I found numerous articles that warned against feeding avocados to pets. While humans aren’t effected, some varieties of avocados such as the Guatemalan avocado variety apparently contains high enough levels of persin to cause problems to dogs. In digging further to find out what kind of problems, I found other articles that stressed that avocados were fine for dogs and cats but not for other pets. Be cautious!
- Grapes, raisins: These fruits might make a healthy snack for humans but can be harmful to pets. Grapes especially contain toxins that can cause kidney failure. In addition, keep in mind that fruitcake contains both grapes and raisins.
- Seeds, pits: Seeds and pits of various fruits can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis. In addition, seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides which can impede the ability of the blood to release oxygen to the tissues. This is really only an issue when a large amount is eaten, but you still should play it safe by removing seeds from fruit before giving it to pets. To learn more, take this quiz: Which Fruits are Toxic?
- Xylitol:Sugar-free items often contain the artificial sweetener xylitol can be deadly to pets. Ingestion causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar, which can result in vomiting, lethargy, weakness, collapse, or seizures. Signs appear as quickly as 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion, but may be delayed for up to 12 hours.
- Yeast, raw dough: Just like yeast rises in bread, it will also expand and rise within your pet’s stomach. While mild cases will simply cause gas, lots of farting, and discomfort, too much yeast could rupture a pet’s stomach and intestines. The alcohol in yeast can also cause a variety of metabolic problems, or what would more commonly be thought of as ‘alcohol poisoning.’
- Eggnog: This beverage is a quintuple whammy, in that it’s loaded with raw eggs, fat, milk, and sugar. Yes, this is only four. The fifth is that eggnog is often spiked with alcohol. Cats in particular are attracted by the sweet taste of eggnog, so be sure not to leave your glass unattended. Alcoholic drinks can intoxicate cats with only a small sip.
- Christmas tree water: Pets have been known to confuse the Christmas tree bowl with their water dish. Unfortunately, Christmas tree water is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria and can cause nausea or digestion problems.
I am not a vet and this article is based solely on research. Should your pet take ill during the holidays, call your vet right away. Many interventions are time-sensitive. Quick action could make the difference between life and death. For that reason, research your vet’s holiday hours in advance, and be sure you know where to go for emergency vet service when your vet is closed.
This article first appeared November 2015 at LAA Pet Talk.
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