Holiday Hazards 7: Holiday Food No-Nos!


By now you have probably heard that some human foods can be toxic to pets. Consequences of ingestions can range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort all the way to the potential to cause death.

While it is great to familiarize yourself with human foods that can be toxic or harmful to pets, we also encourage you to do the following:

  1. Stick to feeding pets their own food. If you never feed your pet human food, then you don’t have to worry you will feed them something toxic.
  2. Accidents can happen. Maybe your child dropped some grapes or raisins on the floor (which can cause kidney failure in dogs), or your houseguest let your dog eat the leftover bacon (this could be a pancreatitis waiting to happen!). Know where to find information fast if your pet ingests a human food you are not sure about. While you can always call Lawndale Veterinary Hospital with questions, the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) are also great resources. You can even download the ASPCA’s free mobile app.
  3. Greasy and high fat foods should be avoided. They can easily cause vomiting and diarrhea, or create a more severe situation where pancreatitis can develop.
  4. Keep holiday baking supplies out of pets’ reach. Here is a brief overview of some of the more common toxic baking products:

Chocolate: Toxicity level depends on the size of the patient, the amount ingested, and the type of chocolate. Milk chocolate is less toxic than dark chocolate. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, restlessness, panting, increased heart rate, seizures, or even death.

Macadamia nuts: Weakness, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, increased temperature (hyperthermia).

Xylitol: This can cause an insulin surge in pets leading to hypoglycemia, weakness, loss of coordination, liver failure, seizures, and even death.

Coconut flesh /Coconut oil: Gastrointestinal upset.

Yeast Dough: The gas can cause an animal to bloat and the bloated stomach can twist – this is a life-threatening emergency! The yeast can also release ethanol and make the pet drunk.

Garlic / Onions: Vomiting, diarrhea, damage to red blood cells (especially cats).

*Visit the ASPCA website for additional information on the toxicity of these products (and others).*

  1. Don’t leave alcoholic drinks lying around unattended. Pets can become intoxicated from alcohol ingestion. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, loss of coordination, coma and even death.
  2. Watch out for wrapped gifts that contain food. Left under the tree, they can be too much temptation for a pet to resist!
  3. And speaking of things around the Christmas tree – be mindful that pets may choose to eat ornaments made out of homemade play dough / salt dough. The salt content in the dough is often quite high and can make pets very sick from salt toxicity. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, seizures, coma or death.

Happy (and safe!) Baking!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS