Author: Melissa Oglesbee, B.S., A.A.S., former RVT
The season of gratitude, giving, and general merriment is fast approaching. And with that also comes the season of various yummies—turkey, ham, dressing, pies, other various sweet treats, etc. While some will view these solely as indulgences, others know that they are expressions of love and care, and it’s completely normal to want to extend those feelings to our pets. However, as I will explain, showering our pets with these things can have serious consequences.
Any veterinarian knows that the days after a holiday can be extremely busy. Not only because the hospital was closed on the holiday, but also because owners have sometimes unknowingly given their cat or dog something bad or even dangerous for them, and now their pet is sick. Pets like these most commonly have GI symptoms, but not always. Here is a list of a few of the things you should avoid, and what the possible consequences may be:
Bones of any sort. These can perforate (puncture) the bowel or even cause an obstruction (blockage). Both of these situations require surgery and can be life-threatening.
Rich or fatty foods. It’s tempting to give a pet the fat from your ham that will only go to waste, but something like this can lead to a condition called pancreatitis, which leads to a very sick pet that usually requires hospitalization. Though it’s usually treatable, this can also be life-threatening, especially in advanced cases.
Raisins or grapes. While these may seem like a healthy treat, just one grape or raisin can cause acute kidney failure in a dog. If your dog accidentally ingests one, even if he/she seems fine, they need to go immediately to a vet hospital. Cats do not seem to get ill from ingesting these, but because they can be fatal to dogs, we don’t recommend giving them to cats.
Xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, which is a boon for humans but is extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol can cause a precipitous drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizures, and liver failure. All of these can cause death. Again, for cats the verdict is still out, but given how toxic it is for dogs, it’s not worth the risk. Keep in mind that xylitol may be in various baked goods and candies, and it’s also in some peanut butter.
Chocolate. Most people know that chocolate can be toxic to dogs, but it can also be toxic to cats. Chocolate ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death. Generally speaking, the less sweet the chocolate is and the smaller the pet, the more toxic chocolate will be. For example, a 10lb dog that ate a square of dark chocolate is in immediate need of veterinary care, whereas a 70 lb. dog that ate a square of milk chocolate will likely have fewer adverse effects. Even so, it’s a good idea to at least call a veterinary hospital if chocolate was ingested to know if any action needs to be taken.
That being said, anything that your pet is not used to can cause GI upset, including pancreatitis. If your pet is having protracted vomiting and/or diarrhea, or if there is any frank (fresh, red blood) or black (old blood) blood in either, your pet should go to a veterinarian immediately.
If you have questions if whether or not something is dangerous for your pet, know who to call:
Animal Hospital of North Asheville: 828-253-3393
ASPCA POISON HOTLINE: 24hr a day, 365 days a year at 888-426-4435 for a fee.
*Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital and Veterinary Emergency Hospital (WCRAH) at 828-408-0223
*REACH (Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital) at 828-665-4399.
With so many dangerous substances, how should you express love to your pets? Well, first of all, keep in mind that your pet probably doesn’t even know that it is a holiday. But if you want to treat your pets, AHNA advises against any people food or table scraps. Instead, think about giving them a pet-friendly treat, toy, or simply your time. You know your pet better than anyone else, so you know what they would like best. But pick something that will keep them safe this holiday season. Here are some more great ideas to keep your pet safe for the holidays: