Holiday Hazards: Some Holiday Food Dangers you need to be Aware of for your Dog. By Deborah Shores, DVM

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With the holidays fast approaching, it’s important to be aware of dangers lurking on your table and in your home.

Chocolate and Candy

Chocolate is an extremely toxic food for your dog. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine that is similar to caffeine which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high pulse, seizures, and death. 
Fortunately for all of us with a sweet-tooth, the holidays are loaded with candy. However, this is bad news if your dog sneaks upon some of these treats. Excess amounts of sugar and fat can lead to painful pancreatitis. Also, xylitol, a sugar substitute, may be lurking in many products, from sugar-free candy, gum, mints, and personal care products. For more information on the dangers of xylitol for dogs, please refer to our previous article

Fat, Bones, and Trimmings

Even though your pet may be begging you for fat and trimmings from your Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham, it’s best to avoid giving these scraps to your dog. Excess fat can cause pancreatitis, upset stomach, and diarrheaBones are also a choking hazard and can lead to internal injury and intestinal issues. 


You may use onions in your turkey stuffing or gravy. Onions and other members of the Allium genus, such as garlic and leeks, contain thiosulphate. This is a toxic substance when ingested by dogs, causing hemolytic anemia, or damage to red blood cells. Symptoms of this include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. It takes a very small amount to poison your dog, so avoid giving your dog any food that may contain onion, leek or garlic.(1) 


Lilies, holly, poinsettias, and mistletoe are toxic if your dog ingests them. Although the Poinsettia plant is generally thought to be extremely toxic, this isn’t entirely true. Ingestion of poinsettia is mildly toxic and may cause nausea and vomiting, however rarely, death. Mistletoe and holly are considered to be moderately to severely toxic to your dog. Certain varieties of lily are toxic to dogs and cats — the peace lily, calla lily, amaryllis, lily of the valley, autumn crocus, and palm lily are also considered dangerous for pets. Ingestion of lilies can cause stomach upset, depression, anorexia, and more specifically, kidney failure in cats.(2) 

If you think that your dog or cat has ingested a toxic substance, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian, nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital or the ASPCA Poison Control Center

(1)  ASPCA Poison Control. People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

(2)  ASPCA Poison Control. 17 Poisonous Plants

About Deborah Shores, DVM
Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida

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