What Holiday Foods Are Toxic for Dogs and Cats?

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, often made all the more stressful by pet owners wondering how to best protect their pets during this chaotic time of year. Though you may not realize it, many holiday foods pose great danger to your four-legged companions. It may seem innocent enough to slip a few extra morsels of dinner or dessert under the table to a begging canine or feline friend, but even the most harmless-seeming meal scraps can sometimes be hazardous to pets.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing for the many feasts of the holiday season:

  • Candy Can Be Deadly. Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that can be toxic to pets. Dark, semi-sweet, and Baker's each contain high-concentrates of theobromine, more than other chocolates varieties - but all chocolate can all be lethal to pets if ingested, so be sure to keep the candy bowls and snack trays well out of your pets’ reach!
  • Leftovers May Be Dangerous. Fatty leftovers, like meat drippings and bones, can cause internal injury, upset stomachs, diarrhea, or vomiting, and may lead to pancreatitis and obesity. Be sure to keep your friends and family informed and in check before they begin doling out unwanted scraps beneath the dinner table.
  • Bones Are Bad. Although bones from our holiday birds look good to pets, they are dangerous and can cause intestinal upset and may even splinter once chewed – becoming lodged dangerously in your pets’ throat – or in the process of being digested – creating serious intestinal problems.
  • Hold the Fruits and Veggies. It seems perfectly logical that because they are good for us, fruits and vegetables are good for pets – and that’s true, partly. Some fruits and vegetables, however, are actually toxic to pets. In terms of vegetables, keep an eye out for garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots dropping from the dinner table, as they are all highly toxic to dogs and cats, and can be fatal in severe cases. As for fruits, grapes, and raisins are the culprits you’ll most need to keep an eye on, as they too can be harmful to pets.
  • Watch the Packaging. Packaging can cause choking or intestinal blockage when ingested. Foil wrappers can become as dangerous as razors when swallowed, so keep a special eye out for wrapped foods and excessive packaging lying about your home.
  • Careful with the Caffeine. While you may often need that extra caffeinated boost to keep you going during this exhausting time of year, your pets do not – in fact, many products on the market with large amounts of caffeine or caffeine-like stimulants are toxic to pets. Be sure to steer your cats and dogs clear of anything containing caffeine around your house, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, caffeine pills, and soft drinks.

Need More Information?

If you have any more questions about keeping your pets safe and healthy during the holidays, feel free to contact your local veterinarian, browse our Pet Health Resource Library, our Nutrition and Behavior centers, or take a look at our Holiday Pet Behavior Survival Guide for dogs and cats.

Updated October 17, 2015