Our pets are an integral part of the holiday season – a part of our family. We might hang a stocking for them, or get them gifts, or dress them in holiday outfits. We also want them to taste all the wonderful foods that come along with this time of year.
But some people foods can be dangerous to our pets. Encanto Pet Clinic veterinarians and staff want to keep your pets safe! We have put together a list of people foods you should avoid giving to your pet – and we have included some good treats that he or she can safely enjoy:
Milk and other dairy products. Our pets are unable to break down lactose present in milk and milk products. Ingesting large amounts of these products can cause severe digestive problems.
Caffeine. Chocolate and coffee contain methylxanthines, which could cause vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures and possible death. Although dark chocolate is better for humans than milk chocolate, the opposite is true for pets, and baking chocolate carries the highest level of methylxanthines.
Coconut. The meat of coconut as well as the milk contains oils that could cause upset stomach and diarrhea. The water of a coconut is also high in potassium, which could affect your pet’s heart and kidney function.
Grapes and raisins. These are common ingredients during the holiday season, and they contain a mystery substance that is toxic to animals and could cause kidney failure. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and abdominal pain. Grape toxicity can be fatal to dogs.
Yeast and alcohol. Never allow your pet to drink alcohol, but you must also be careful of fruitcakes soaked in rum and unbaked dough containing yeast. The latter can expand in the stomach and cause a potentially fatal condition known as “bloat. ” Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and causes drops in blood sugar, body temperature, seizures and respiratory distress.
Nuts. Many types of nuts contain fats that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and perhaps pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts are especially toxic; pets experience weakness, depression, trembling and hyperthermia.
Onions, garlic, chives and shallots. We love them, but these foods are especially toxic to cats, causing red blood cell damage. But dogs are also susceptible, and can suffer gastrointestinal problems as a result of eating these vegetables, or by eating foods that contain them.
Raw meats, eggs, and fish. It may seem okay to feed your pet something their ancestors would eat in the wild. But domestication also changed the body’s ability to handle some foods, and there is a risk of Salmonella and E.coli as well as a host of other bacteria that can wreak havoc on your pet.
Bones. Just as raw meat is a problem for domesticated animals, bones of any sort can also cause trouble. Even large bones can splinter and lodge in the pet’s mouth, throat, stomach or intestine.
Salty food. We know how much your pet loves playing “catch the popcorn.” But salted and buttered popcorn, salty chips,pretzels and other snack foods can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever, seizures, excessive thirst and urination. Ditch the saltshaker when it comes to your pet’s movie snacks.
Xylitol. This sweetener is hidden in places you may not expect – many peanut butters, baked goods, ice creams, pudding and gum products contain xylitol. The sweetener causes insulin release and can lead to liver failure. The Pet Poison Helpline reported 2,700 cases of Xylitol poisoning in 2014; 43% of those cases required emergency care. Xylitol is being used as a sweetener in many peanut butter brands. Peanut butter is a favorite of many dogs, so make sure you read the labels and choose a safe, unsweetened peanut butter for your pet. Xylitol may masquerade as “sugar alcohol,” and the peanut butter may be labeled as “naturally sweetened.”
Turkey. Pets can enjoy the holiday bird, but in small doses. It has lean protein and the flavor they love. Take off the skin and avoid grease or other fats including gravy – and double check for bones!
Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and beta carotene, and are super foods for dog and cat treats. White potatoes can be given to pets as well – but don’t add the extras, like cream, butter, onions, chives, or gravy!
Apples. Some pets don’t care for the taste of apples, but they are rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber. Cook them into an unsweetened apple sauce, or offer slices as treats. Avoid apple pie or packaged apple snacks, as some brands contain sweeteners (beware of Xylitol!) or MSG.
Pumpkin. Cooked fresh pumpkin or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree is a super treat. It is low in fat, sodium and cholesterol, and is a source of fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium. A few teaspoons of pumpkin added to your pet’s diet could help to reduce diarrhea, aid in a low-calorie diet, or entice a picky eater.
Green Beans. Encanto Pet Clinic veterinarians and staff love green beans! Keep a bag of short-cut green beans in your freezer, and use them for last-minute treats. They are easy to thaw under warm water, and some pets love them in their frozen state.
Bananas. Low in sodium, high in antioxidants, and with a sweet scent, bananas are a favorite of many Encanto Pet Clinic patients. Potassium-rich bananas can be offered raw or in dried form. But some banana chips have been treated with sweeteners or anti-darkening preservatives, so choose organic, unsweetened brands.
Yogurt. Our list of bad foods began with milk and milk products. But, surprise! Yogurt and other cultured milks are lower in lactose, and the bacteria in yogurt contain the lactase enzyme that helps digest lactose. Freeze a spoonful of yogurt in the center of a sterilized bone or chewing toy. Your dog will exercise his jaw muscles and enjoy the taste!