Keep the Holiday Treats to Yourself:

Holiday Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

Chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocados … these foods may sound delicious to you, but they’re actually quite dangerous for our animal companions. We often find that the opportunity for dietary indiscretion increases around the holidays as an abundant amount of food is left unattended or our sneaky family members decide to go “dumpster diving” in the trashcan and garbage gut ensues. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the toxic holiday treats listed below, please note the amount ingested and contact us immediately.

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.


Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Pet owners don’t usually give items containing alcohol to their pets intentionally, but around the holidays there are certainly more opportunities for spiked beverages to be in open containers and dogs are not deterred from these sugary, sweet drinks. Even in small amounts the consequences of pet alcohol intoxication can be great so keeping a watchful eye is necessary.


The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins

Although the toxic substance within these fruits is unknown, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake and it is often a better idea to avoid yeast containing items all together, especially if owners are making homemade dog treats and uncooked dough is readily available for consumption.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract. There are far too many cases of owners giving leftover holiday meal components like turkey or ham and significant illness being caused by the excessive amount of fat in the item or simply by the GI tract working in overdrive to digest boney material. Left-overs might seem like an inexpensive treat for our pets but they can have very expensive consequences.


Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels) and this can be life threatening. Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days and this is one of the few items on this list that owners oftentimes have not realized has the potential for life threatening toxicity. Gum and mints are especially problematic as owners regularly have those items available in purses, bags, or in decorative bowls for the holidays.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.


Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.


Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!

What to Do if Your Pet Gets Food Poisoning

Because these foods tend to be so prevalent over the holiday season it is a good idea to always keep an eye on your pup. Dogs have an uncanny ability to get themselves into trouble when they’re stressed or their owners are distracted, and the holidays provide the perfect opportunity for them to sneak a treat off the counter or an unattended plate. But they’re not always to blame … please make your guests aware that they should never feed your dog!

Do your best to keep your pets safe from toxic holiday treats this season, but please contact us right away if you suspect they’ve eating something bad for them!

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