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Enjoy your holiday foods, but…

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

Our four-legged friends find the scents of holiday cooking as appealing as we do, and those eager, upturned faces are hard to resist. But some human foods cause digestive upsets and, in fact, quite a few are toxic for pets, causing serious symptoms, even death. No one wants to go to the emergency vet for the holiday!

What human foods are unhealthful for pets?

Dairy seems a natural for your pets, but it isn’t. Cats and dogs cannot properly digest milk, ice cream, or other dairy because they lack sufficient amounts of the enzyme needed to break down the lactose in dairy. Dairy products will likely cause digestive issues, like upset stomach and diarrhea.

Uncooked meats, eggs, and bones are not for domesticated pets.

  • Raw or under-cooked meats and eggs can have E. Coli, salmonella, or other bacteria that will make pets ill.

  • Bones are a choking hazard. Once inside, they can become stuck or even splinter, possibly puncturing the digestive tract of your pet.

Beware herbs, spices, and seasonings!

  • Garlic, onions, scallions, and chives are toxic to pets.

  • Allspice, bay leaf, cloves, curry, marjoram, mustard seed, nutmeg, paprika are not safe either.

  • Excessive salt is dangerous for pets, so avoid sharing snacks that are heavily salted, like chips, pretzels, salted popcorn.

  • Unlike people, pets do not enjoy the burning effects of cayenne.

Chocolates–the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous.

  • Baking chocolate and cocoa powder are particularly bad for pets. They are high in methylxanthines, which is poisonous to them. Death by chocolate is not something you want pets to go through.

  • Milk and white chocolates have fewer methylxanthines so pose less risk, but it’s safer to keep them out of your pets’ reach.

No nuts for dogs or cats. In addition to posing a choking hazard, nuts–like almonds, pecans, walnuts–are high in oils and fats which can cause digestive issues and even pancreatitis.

  • Macadamia nuts in particular can make pets seriously ill with symptoms showing up within 12 hours.

  • Peanut butter is a safe nut food, but look for sugar free and low sodium if possible.

Alcohol and caffeine are a definite no! No amount of alcohol is good for pets. Any beverages or foods with alcohol are out.

  • Coffee, tea, and some sodas have caffeine, so don’t share with pets. Like chocolate, caffeinated drinks contain the substance methylxanthines, which is poisonous to pets.

The sweetener Xylitol is highly toxic to many animals. Xylitol causes the release of insulin leading to liver failure and, within days, death. Read ingredient labels on baked goods and peanut butter. Avoid those with Xylitol. If your pet gets into things, skip the gum, candy, and toothpaste with Xylitol in them.

What symptoms can human foods cause in pets?

  • Lots of things: vomiting, diarrhea, panting, breathing problems, hyperactivity, damage to blood cells, damage to nervous system, tremors, seizures, convulsions, coma, organ failure. Whew!

Don’t give in to those pleading eyes before you know if the food you are about to share is safe for pets. For their own good, sometimes you just have to say No.


POISON HOTLINES for PETS (Add these to your emergency numbers)

888-426-4435 Animal Poison Control Center(ASPCA)

855-764-7661 Pet Poison Helpline

Check these sites for more information:

People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets, ASPCA


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