The Naughty List: 10 Holiday Foods You Shouldn’t Feed Your Pets

Ah, the holidays, reunions with friends, family traditions and, of course, those delicious meals. If you have a dog, your canine pal will probably be paying very close attention to those yummy dishes, but with tempting human food comes pet risk. Here’s our naughty holiday food list you want to avoid feeding your dog, and some helpful tips to help avoid costly treatment.

1) Grapes & Raisins
Raisins are commonly found in stuffing, baked goods and as snacks. When ingested, these fruits from the Vitus sp. can result in severe acute kidney injury. Signs of poisoning often don’t show up for days, until kidney failure has already taken place.

2) Xylitol
If you have any calorie-counting chefs in the kitchen, you may want to verify that they haven’t used any xylitol in the baked goods. Xylitol, a natural sugar-free sweetener, is a sugar substitute used in many products nowadays: baked goods, certain brands of peanut butter, gums, mints, mouthwashes, nasal sprays, chewable vitamins, etc. When ingested by dogs, it can result in a massive insulin spike, causing a life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and even liver failure with higher doses.

3) Fatty table scraps
Fatty table scraps like gravy, turkey skin, etc. are potentially dangerous to your dog, as they can result in severe pancreatitis. Certain breeds are especially sensitive, including miniature schnauzers, Shetland sheepdogs, and Yorkshire terriers. Even a piece of bacon can trigger pancreatitis in dogs, so when in doubt, don’t feed it to your dog or cat!

4) Nuts
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.

5) Bones and turkey legs
While you may think you’re giving your dog a treat, you’re actually putting him at risk for a possible foreign body obstruction. The bones can also get stuck in the stomach or intestines, potentially resulting in a perforation (or rupture) of the intestines.

6) Onions, leeks, chives and garlic
This toxic food is a bit overhyped, as it typically takes a large ingestion to result in poisoning in dogs. That said, when ingested, these common kitchen foods can result in oxidative damage to the red blood cells, making these cells more likely to rupture (e.g., hemolyze). Cats are especially sensitive, and can develop a severe anemia (low red blood cell count) from even small amounts. Thankfully, this is typically seen more with chronic ingestion (e.g., when they are eating it for days), but to be safe, keep these out of reach.

7) Chocolate, coffee and 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. Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

8) Unbaked yeast bread dough
About to throw some fresh bread in the oven? Make sure your dog doesn’t eat the raw yeast dough first. When this occurs, your dog’s stomach acts like an artificial oven, making the yeast rise and release carbon dioxide, causing a distended abdomen and potential life-threatening gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Next, the yeast and sugar in the unbaked dough are metabolized to alcohol, which can result in secondary alcohol poisoning in your dog.

9) Alcohol
As mentioned above, we can see alcohol poisoning from strange sources (e.g., unbaked yeast bread dough, rum-soaked fruitcake, etc.). Likewise, dogs can be poisoned by ingesting alcoholic drinks, so keep the mixed drinks and beer away from your dog. Accidental ingestion can cause severe coma, slowed respiration, and a life-threateningly low blood sugar in your dog.

10) Salt and Salty Snack Foods
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, like potato chips and pretzels, include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.

With all of these foods tempting our pets during the holidays, a few simple tips can help pet-proof your celebrations this holiday season:

Keep your dog out of the kitchen
Accidental counter-surfing can result in severe poisoning to your pet.

Don’t let friends and family feed your pets
Make sure your guests know the house rules: Don’t feed your pets. Your friends and family may not be aware of the common kitchen foods that are quite poisonous to pets. Politely ask your guests to keep their food out of reach.

Dump the trash
Somehow, your dog will find a way to get into it, and the leftover corn-on-the-cob, yummy string that goes around the turkey legs, turkey skin, bones, moldy food, and fatty grizzle all pose a threat to your pet. Potential problems from “garbage gut” include gastroenteritis (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain), pancreatitis (severe inflammation of the pancreas), a gastrointestinal obstruction, or even tremors or seizures.

If you think your dog or cat ingested something poisonous, contact your veterinarian immediately. When it comes to any poisoning situation, the sooner you diagnose it, the easier it is to potentially treat, less invasive it is to your pet, and less costly it is for you.