By Dr. Donald Consla, Lead Wellness Veterinarian
As we approach the winter holiday season, many of us will be cooking delicious meals to share with friends and family. But our four-legged friends will often beg for a taste, too! Unfortunately, many of the ingredients we enjoy this time of year can cause our pets serious health problems or even death.
Here are five common holiday food dangers to be wary of:
1. Chocolate contains a compound called methylxanthine which is toxic to animals. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of methylxanthine. The clinical signs of chocolate toxicity vary significantly. At lower doses, you may notice gastrointestinal (GI) upset such as vomiting and diarrhea. Higher dose ingestions can result in heart arrhythmias, seizures and even death. Keep chocolate in sealed containers in a cupboard and baked goods out of reach.
2. Bread comes with a caveat since regular bread is basically harmless. In this case, we are worried particularly about fermenting or rising bread such as rolls or buns. When an uncooked, rising loaf of bread enters the stomach, it continues to expand but has nowhere to go. The expanding dough starts to cut off the blood supply and can even rupture the stomach. Try proofing your dough in the oven when it’s turned off or in a proofing box to make sure your pets can’t help themselves.
3. Root vegetables such as onions, garlic and shallots can cause damage to your pet’s red blood cells and can result in life-threatening anemia. In addition to the raw versions of these vegetables, be wary of the dehydrated forms such as garlic and onion powder.
4. Grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure. Keep your grapes in the refrigerator and don’t leave baked goods out if they contain these fruits.
5. Fatty meats and table scraps aren’t necessarily toxic, but they can still cause a variety of problems ranging from mild GI upset to life-threatening pancreatitis. The sudden influx of dietary fat can overwhelm organs and cause a powerful inflammatory response in the pancreas and GI tract.
If your pet ingests any of these items, call Animal Poison Control immediately at 888.426.4435. They may give you instructions on how to make your pet vomit to purge the toxic material from their GI tract before the toxic compounds can be absorbed. From there they will likely advise you to go to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian. There, the veterinarian may recommend bloodwork to obtain baseline levels or see if any damage has started. They may recommend some treatments such as fluid therapy to flush the toxin out through the kidneys and into the urine or activated charcoal to help bind the toxin in the intestines so they are not absorbed. A follow-up visit will be scheduled to reassess bloodwork and your pet’s status.
The holidays are meant for delicious foods, but remember, as much as you’d love to share a bite with your pet, you’ll be doing them a favor by keeping these foods out of reach!