‘Tis the season to partake in lots of food and drink we may not keep around the house any other time of year. You know what we’re talking about: baked goods, alcohol, chocolates, candies and more. And although enjoying some of these indulgences may not be enough to throw off our New Year’s resolutions, even a tiny amount could cause poisoning or even death in our cats and dogs.
It's one of our favorite holiday indulgences, but chocolate can cause seizures and death in dogs and cats (although felines seem to be less attracted to chocolate).
Darker chocolate, such as unsweetened baker’s chocolate, is more toxic
than milk or white chocolate. The toxic ingredients in chocolate include caffeine and a chemical called theobromine.
These small nuts may look harmless, but they can poison dogs who get into a bowl of them or swipe a cookie containing them. Clinical signs of poisoning include depression, weakness, vomiting, tremors, lack of coordination and joint stiffness. Also on the do-not-share list for dogs: grapes and raisins.
If you have guests over for after-dinner coffee, make sure they don't leave it anywhere that pets could take a sip. The caffeine in coffee can prompt seizures, abnormal heart rhythm and death in pets. Other caffeinated drinks — even tea — can have the same effect.
Unbaked Bread Dough
Around the holidays, many of us are dusting off bread makers and baking tins that haven't seen the light of day since last Christmas. But here's a toxin that would probably surprise most pet owners: unbaked bread dough. If your pet ingests it, it can expand in the stomach. In some dogs, it's possible for the stomach to twist, cutting off the blood supply, a condition requiring emergency surgery. The yeast in the dough can also produce alcohol, leading to seizures and respiratory failure.
Speaking of alcohol, that's another holiday treat to keep away from your animals. Alcohol's toxicity is heavily dependent on body weight — and pets weigh a lot less than people do, which means it takes much less alcohol to make them dangerously sick. And that explains why animals shouldn't have any alcohol at all.
Sugar-Free Items Containing Xylitol
Even the most knowledgeable pet owners may not have heard about this very dangerous hazard. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener in products like sugar-free gum, candy and mints, causes a sudden release of insulin in a dog's body that leads to serious low blood sugar. It can also cause liver damage. Xylitol acts fast — you could see vomiting, lethargy and other signs of poisoning in less than 15 minutes. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal. Make sure your pets don't have access to sugar-free baked goods or open purses containing sugar-free gum and mints.