The tree has been decorated and all the presents have been wrapped. Finally you’re ready for the holiday season, but Fluffy has other ideas. You just got home from work and the house is a disaster. Christmas tree knocked over, wrapping paper ripped to shreds and Fluffy is sitting there quietly. If you can resist the urge to take matters into your own hands, you might quickly be concerned with the health of your devilish furry friend. Here’s an overview of common holiday toxic foods for dogs that karma has ordered for Fluffy.
Delicious chocolate is the most common of run-ins with toxic foods for dogs. Dogs just can’t stop themselves from enjoying a chocolate dessert. Try to avoid putting gifts containing chocolate, out in the open. If it’s too late for that, then there are a few important things to know about chocolate toxicity in dogs.
Dark chocolate and baking chocolate (cocoa) contain the highest concentration of toxins (theobromine and methylxanthines) and are therefore the most dangerous types of chocolate for dogs. Milk chocolates are safer but can still cause issues if ingested in large quantities. The smaller the dog, the less chocolate can be eaten before signs of chocolate toxicity are noticed.
If your dog has eaten chocolate, call your veterinarian. They can tell you how much danger your pet is in based on the type of chocolate, the quantity eaten, and the size of your pet. Signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs usually start with hyperactivity and frequent urination. Serious cases of chocolate intoxication can progress to seizures and death. If you’re noticing an overly hyper dog and you think this poisonous food might be involved, do not hesitate to call your vet.
Fruitcake – Grapes and Raisins
One of the more unknown toxic foods for dogs is grapes or their dehydrated cousin, raisins. Ingestion of grapes or raisins can lead to acute kidney failure, a potentially life threatening condition. The grape toxin works in mysterious ways and some dogs will be severely affected while others will carry on unscathed. If you notice loss of energy, loss of appetite, or vomiting, contact your veterinarian immediately. Grapes are a dangerous food for dogs but are perfectly safe for cats.
Desiccants – Silica Gel
This wonderful little add-in to your Christmas gifts can lead to tons of entertainment for your dog. The noise of batting around a present with these inside can mean minutes of fun. If eaten, this potential toxin can cause diarrhea by attracting water into the intestinal tract. If a large desiccant is eaten, there is the potential for intestinal tract obstruction. Poisoning from desiccants is only a concern if you’re noticing signs of illness; vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or lethargy.
Gum and Sugar-free candy – Xylitol – Sweetener
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is found in many types of gum and some sugar-free candy. Xylitol can make gum a terribly toxic food to dogs. Xylitol stimulates continuous insulin release which leads to severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). As little as 1 piece of gum can be poisonous to your dog, depending on its size. The good news is that gum doesn’t actually take 7 years to pass through an intestinal tract, so your dog won’t be trapped in a xylitol-induced illness for years to come. However, it can take 2-3 days to pass gum so continued monitoring in cases of xylitol poisoning is integral. Typical signs of low blood sugar are weakness, difficulty rising, low energy level, and difficulty walking. Poison symptoms can progress to seizures and comas. If you suspect your dog has eaten xylitol, call your vet immediately. Xylitol is an extremely dangerous food to dogs and vomiting should be induced if you suspect your dog has eaten food containing the poison xylitol.
Drunk dogs and cats are no joke. Dogs are not usually picky eaters and can potentially get inebriated from a wide variety of alcoholic drinks and foods. Be especially cautious with dangerous foods like rum cake. Signs of alcohol poisoning in dogs are similar to humans; uncoordinated walking, vomiting, and in serious cases comas. The size of our dogs is what makes them lightweights and increases the risk of alcohol poisoning. Be careful and call your vet if your precious little Yorkie is getting into the sauce.
This fantastic smelling liquid can be very toxic to dogs. Liquid potpourri may contain dangerous toxins for dogs (cationic ingredients) that can burn the tissues in the mouth, esophagus and stomach and cause serious skin burns. DO NOT make your dog vomit if it has ingested liquid potpourri. This can make any damage that has already happened worse by re-exposing tissues to the dangerous toxins. The toxins are not the same in all types of liquid potpourri but it is still recommended to call your vet if this toxin is ingested or made contact with. It’s safest to avoid having liquid potpourri in your household if you have pets (cats too!).
Recently there have been reports of potpourri that contains the poison strychnine. These reports have been from potpourri that is made in India. Strychnine is a dangerous neurologic toxin for dogs and other pets. If you notice loss of coordination, wobbly gait, lethargy, strange behaviour, or seizures after your dog eats potentially poisonous potpourri, contact your vet immediately.
Decadent foods are not only dangerous for your dogs’ waist line but also for your dogs’ pancreas. High fat foods like bacon, cheese, gravy and others can be harmful to your dog by causing pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is essentially a very severe upset stomach. Signs of pancreatitis are vomiting, painful abdomen, loss of appetite, and loss of energy. Not all dogs that eat fatty foods will develop pancreatitis. Certain breeds, especially Schnauzer’s, are predisposed to this illness. If you have a dog with a history of sensitive stomach or pancreatitis then high fat foods are dangerous for your dog and should be avoided. So be careful this holiday season when you’re contemplating spoiling your dog at the dinner table.
Onions and Garlic
Both of these foods contain the same harmful toxin. Depending on the size of your dog, one small piece of onion is unlikely to be harmful. Larger amounts of the toxin will attack and destroy dogs’ red blood cells, which can be extremely serious. Signs of onion or garlic toxicity are; weakness, pale gums, panting, and bloody or brown urine. Call your vet immediately if you notice any of these toxicity symptoms. Garlic contains a ¼ of the toxin compared to onions and usually isn’t as tasty for dogs. This makes garlic poisoning quite rare. Onions are definitely a poison for dogs and you should be cautious about feeding your dog any food containing onions.
Raw Hide and Dried Meat Treats
These delicious pet store staples often do not cause any harm to dogs. However, the random raw or dried meat chews sitting by the register at the pet store, do not have high standards of quality control. There is a genuine concern for salmonella contamination on these types of treats, making them a potentially toxic food for your dog. Salmonella can cause profuse watery, sometimes bloody diarrhea. If your dog has reacted negatively to a particular treat, avoid that treat in the future.
Hopefully this list of dangerous foods has given you some insight into what is safe and not safe for your troublemaker dog. If you think your dog has gotten into something toxic, contact your veterinarian and they can advise you on what to do next. Another option is to contact poison control for treatment advice. Check out our previous article on toxic holiday plants for more information on common holiday hazards for your pet.
Dr. Tim Julian