• Yolanda M. Blake

Foods that are Dangerous for Your Pet: at the Holidays or Otherwise

Holidays are right around the corning, and we’re all inclined to be a little more thankful this time of year.


It’s easy to recognize our blessings during the holidays—a roof over our heads, warm beds at night, and family to come home to, including our beloved pets. We share our hearts and homes (and for some lucky pups and kittens, even the foot of our beds) with our furry pals. Surely there is nothing wrong with sharing our favorite foods with them too, right? Not necessarily.


While it may be hard to resist those big puppy eyes pleading up at you, being a responsible pet owner sometimes means not caving into your pet’s adorable demands.

Cats and dogs alike can be opportunists when it comes to getting their paws on tasty treats, but not all foods are safe for your pet.



In fact, some foods that are considered good for people can be dangerous for animals. The list below highlights some of the most common people foods that can be dangerous to your pet.

Dangerous Foods Include:


Xylitol

Candy, gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and some diet foods are sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol can cause your pet's blood sugar to drop and can also cause liver failure. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and coordination problems.


Alcohol

Alcohol has the same effect on your pet’s liver and brain that it has on people. Even a little alcohol consumption can cause vomiting, diarrhea, coordination problems, breathing problems, coma, and even death. And the smaller your pet, the more drastically they will be affected.


Onions, Garlic, & Chives

Keep these root vegetables—powdered, raw, cooked, or dehydrated—away from your pet. In large doses, these vegetables can lower your pet’s red blood cells, causing anemia. Look for signs like weakness, vomiting, and breathing problems.


Caffeine

Caffeine products, including tea, coffee, soda, etc. can be fatal to your pet. 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.


Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins are known to be highly toxic to both cats and dogs, though research has yet to pinpoint exactly which substance in the fruit causes this reaction. These human treats are linked to kidney failure in pets, and just a small amount can make your pet sick.


Dairy Products

On a hot day, it may be tempting to share your ice cream with your dog, and we’ve all grown up with the image of kittens lapping up a saucer of milk. But most pets are actually lactose-intolerant and don’t digest milk well. For lactose-intolerant pets, milk and milk-based products can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems. They can also trigger food allergies, which can cause them to feel itchy and uncomfortable.


While small doses aren’t going to kill your pet, they could produce some smelly gas and a nasty case of diarrhea. Some pets can eat cheese and the like in small to moderate quantities, but owners should be cognizant of the symptoms of lactose-intolerance in case problems arise.


Chocolate

Most people know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but many don't know that it's equally as bad for cats. The problem in chocolate is theobromine. It's in all kinds of chocolate, even white chocolate. The most dangerous types are dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate. Chocolate can cause your pet to vomit and have diarrhea, and it can also cause heart problems, tremors, and seizures.


Bones

Even though it seems natural to give a dog a bone, the truth is bones can be dangerous choking hazards. They can also splinter and cause cuts or blockages in your pet’s digestive system. It’s best to steer clear of bones for your pet’s safety.


Whole Pitted Fruits

Peach, cherry, and plum pits (among other pitted fruits) contain cyanide, which is poisonous to both people and dogs. Of course, people know not to eat them. Pets don't.


Raw Meat & Eggs

Although raw diets have become a trend, especially for dogs, you should work with your veterinarian before switching your pet to a raw food diet. Feeding your pet raw meat or eggs can increase the risk of exposure to bacteria like Salmonella or E. Coli, which can cause them to get very sick. Talk to your vet if you have questions.


Bread & Yeast

Pets can safely eat bread on occasion, but note that bread contains no nutritional value for your pet (it has virtually no fat or protein), so it should not replace their normal pet food diet. And yeast can stretch your pet’s abdomen and cause severe bloating and pain.


Avocado

Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause serious health problems in many animals.


Preventing Your Pet from Eating Dangerous Foods


By keeping poisonous and hazardous foods out of your pet’s reach, as well as making sure they consume a balanced diet, you are helping your pet stay healthy and live their best life.


Here are some easy tips for preventing your cat or dog from eating dangerous foods:

  • Store foods out of your pet’s reach. Keep potentially unhealthy food items in high shelves or in the refrigerator, where your pets cannot gain access to them. Installing pet-proof locks on cabinets may be necessary for some curious or clever cats and dogs.

  • Do not get in the habit of feeding your pet table scraps. They will become accustomed to an unhealthy diet and, what’s more, will learn to beg at the dinner table. Not every table guest is knowledgeable as to which foods are toxic to pets; of course, there will be no accidental exposures to dangerous foods if your pet does not get into the habit of begging.

  • It is especially important to be more mindful during the holidays. There is likely more enticing people food around, much of which can upset your pet’s tummy or even harm them.

No matter how careful you are, your pet might find and swallow something they shouldn't. You should keep the number of your local vet, the closest emergency clinic, and the Animal Poison Control Center—(888) 426-4435—where you can easily find it. And, if you think your pet has eaten something toxic, call for emergency help right away.


If you do want to feed your pet something that is not specially formulated for their needs and are unsure whether you can feed a certain item to your pet, always consult your veterinarian first.

Of course, it’s best to avoid feeding your pet human food anyways. While it can be hard to ignore those puppy dog eyes pleading with you at the dinner table, the easiest way to keep your pet out of harm’s way is to stick to a diet of food specifically formulated to meet your pet’s nutritional needs.


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