As the leaves fall from the trees and the nights get cooler, our thoughts turn to cozy family get-togethers and holiday celebrations. These special events often bring out special foods and spirit-induced cheer that people love, but which can spell trouble for our pets. We’ve compiled a list of nine common foods that pose a threat to your pets this holiday season.

#1: Alcohol

Not every dog or cat is enamored by the scent, but some may find sweet, yeasty alcohol irresistible—or worse, an irresponsible person may find it humorous to deliberately intoxicate an animal. But, alcohol poisoning is no laughing matter for a pet, who may experience vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, or death. 

Also, as homebrewing becomes more popular, pets are likely to be exposed to hops, an essential beer ingredient and also an attractive vine often grown in backyards. Hop ingestion can cause hyperthermia (i.e., high body temperature), anxiety, vomiting, and high heart and respiratory rates, and may lead to abnormal blood clotting up to six hours after ingestion.

#2: Bread dough

Breads and rolls are especially popular around the holidays, and yeasted dough often sits in a bowl for a long time while rising—a perfect target for a canine counter-surfer. Yeasted bread dough is dangerous for two reasons:

  • The yeast produces alcohol. 
  • The yeast produces carbon dioxide that, if ingested by your pet, can cause bloating and the potential for his stomach twisting, which can be fatal if left untreated.

#3: Caffeine and chocolate

Dogs are more sensitive to caffeine and  theobromine, both found in chocolate, than humans. The darker the chocolate the more toxic; for example, for a dog weighing 40 pounds, or 18 kilograms, about 30 ounces of milk chocolate, but only 3 ounces of baking chocolate, would be dangerous. Chocolate toxicity signs include restlessness, high heart rate and blood pressure, and tremors that can lead to seizures and death without treatment.

#4: Grapes, raisins, and currants

We do not know why grapes are toxic for pets, but we do know that toxicity is not dose-dependent (i.e., just a few grapes can be toxic), and can cause acute kidney failure. Keeping actual grapes away from hungry pets may not be difficult—unless a high chair is involved—but care must also be taken to ensure pets do not eat foods that contain grapes, raisins, or currants, including:

  • Trail mix
  • Protein bars
  • Grape juice
  • Raisin bread
  • Wine

#5: Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic are a part of the allium family, which also includes chives and leeks, with  garlic the most dangerous for pets. Cats are more sensitive to these foods than dogs. Allium toxicity signs may take several days to become apparent, but can include:

  • Gastrointestinal upset (i.e., vomiting and diarrhea)
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Increased heart and respiratory rates
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse

#6: Nuts

Nuts contain a high amount of fat, which can lead to pancreatitis in pets. Be sure your pet cannot access macadamia nuts in particular, which can cause lethargy, increased body temperature, vomiting, tremors, and inability to walk. 

#7: Moldy food

Finding the garbage strewn around the house or the compost pile torn apart is no one’s idea of fun, and ingesting moldy food can be no fun for pets. Besides “garbage gut” and the risk of ingesting foreign bodies, pets who ingest moldy bread, pasta, cheese, or nuts may experience vomiting, lack of coordination, agitation, tremors, or seizures. 

#8: Xylitol

Sugar-laden foods have a bad reputation in human nutrition circles. Unfortunately for our pets, that means many unexpected food items now contain sugar substitutes, including xylitol, that are toxic for our four-legged friends. Be vigilant about keeping these foods, which may contain xylitol, away from your pet:

  • Gum
  • Candy
  • Baked goods
  • Peanut and nut butter
  • Ice cream
  • Protein bars

#9: Stone fruits

Although the flesh of fruits like apricots and peaches aren’t dangerous, the leaves, stems, and pits contain cyanide, which can be deadly in only small amounts in a few hours. The pits can also become lodged in your pet’s throat or intestines and require surgical removal. 

Holiday cheer can quickly turn into holiday fear if your pet eats something toxic, so keep a close eye on your furry friend this holiday season. If you suspect your pet has ingested something dangerous, call our office right away.