Ask A Vet: Holiday Hazards – Fact Or Fiction?

The holidays are a festive time full of family, festivities and fun. Nothing can put a damper on fun like a visit to the animal ER. There are always rumors of dangers and there are real dangers, so here are some things to know about:


Real mistletoe is very toxic to animals (as well as humans). If you hang it, make sure it stays out of reach. Symptoms of ingestion can include some very bad signs, like GI upset, cardiac collapse, and erratic behavior. Danger of mistletoe- FACT.


Poinsettia often appears on lists like these, but its danger level is often overstated. Either dogs are very unlikely to actually eat it or it isn’t as toxic as purported. If your dog eats it, don’t panic, but it can cause stomach upset. It is probably better displayed out of reach. Threat of Poinsettia? ALMOST FICTION


Eggnog and high fat foods

Many of the foods that we love for the holidays can serve as a hazard for pets and ANY food can be hazardous to pets in excessive quantities. Eggnog is high in sugars and fats. For dogs, acute pancreatitis can result from ingesting fat. Some dog breeds and individuals are predisposed to this problem. No dog benefits from high sugar content and dairy can be hard to digest, resulting in discomfort and diarrhea. Risk of eating high fat foods? For many dogs, FACT

Spices like garlic and onions

Foods for holiday gatherings can be cooked by many different cooks. If there is any chance that the dish has onions, garlic or chives, it is best for your dog to avoid it. Abnormal destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia) and gastrointestinal difficulties can result from eating these members of the Allium family. The danger is somewhat related to the amount in the food and to the individual but Hazard of Allium species ingestion? FACT


Xylitol, a sugar substitute, is found in many sugar free delicacies and is truly toxic to pets. Holidays pose a risk of exposure to increased temptations, both sweet and sugar free, that are not good for pets. It is a good rule of thumb is to keep everything not specifically for pets out of reach – sugar free items most of all. Danger of Xylitol? – VERY REAL FACT


Chocolate contains two different components that are really toxic to dogs, theobromine and caffeine. The caffeine itself can cause tremors, tachycardia (increased heart rate), arrhythmias, and potentially serious cardiovascular side effects, but theobromine is toxic outright. Dogs love the smell and taste of chocolate. Keep it out of reach. Toxicity of chocolate? FACT

Grapes and raisins

Deserts containing grapes or raisins are definitely to be avoided. Not only is the sugar content less than ideal, but the grapes/raisins can cause kidney failure. Fruit cake is probably not dog friendly at all. Although we think of fruits as good alternatives for our own sweet tooth, do not be tempted to share grapes or raisins. This is also poorly defined. No one knows exactly what component of the grapes is responsible, but dogs have been sickened by grapes and raisins. FACT

Any sick dog should be seen by a vet without delay. There are other things that can make pets fall ill, inside the kitchen and out. Don’t forget your furry friend when you are busy with guests and parties. Make sure your trash cans are inaccessible and food items are far out of reach of a curious canine. When you do want to share, use your common sense. Even if the food item did not make the “toxic list”, make sure that your dog only gets a tiny taste and if you think that your own doctor would frown on you eating something, certainly do not share it with your dog!

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