Holiday Food Dangers for Dogs and Cats

The holidays are all about indulgence – cozy meals with loved ones, delicious seasonal treats, and drinks galore. As pet owners, we want our furry family members to join in the festivities. But while the foods we love may be a celebration for us, they can actually be quite dangerous for our cats and dogs. Many of the tasty tidbits we enjoy during the holidays can lead to toxic contamination, digestive upsets, choking hazards, and adverse reactions in our pets.

Toxic Contamination From Chocolate, Alcohol and More

Toxic Contamination From Chocolate, Alcohol and More

One of the biggest dangers to watch out for during the holidays is toxic contamination from certain human foods that are poisonous to dogs and cats. These toxins can cause a variety of health issues, ranging from minor digestive upset to organ damage, seizures, coma, and even death.


Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant which dogs and cats metabolize much slower than humans. Ingesting too much chocolate can lead to chocolate toxicity, causing symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, a very fast heart rate, tremors, and even death. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate are the most dangerous.


Alcoholic beverages pose a huge threat to pets. Their livers cannot properly break down alcohol like humans can. Just a little bit of alcohol, especially in small dogs and cats, can cause alcohol poisoning leading to central nervous system depression, dangerously low blood sugar, vomiting, diarrhea, and death.

Coffee, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks

Caffeine and other stimulants found in coffee, energy drinks, and some medications act as intoxicants to pets and can be lethal in high amounts. Ingesting caffeine can cause restlessness, a very rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, fever, and even death.

Xylitol (artificial sweetener)

The sugar substitute xylitol, found in many sugar-free foods, candies, and gum, can cause life-threatening drops in blood sugar as well as liver damage in dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can be dangerous, so keep all products containing xylitol well out of your dog’s reach.

Other foods

Other dangerous foods for pets include grapes, raisins, avocados, onions, garlic, chives, macadamia nuts, pistachios, yeast dough, raw eggs, raw meat and bones. While smaller amounts may only cause digestive upset, large amounts can lead to organ damage, pancreatitis or other severe medical issues.

The holiday season is certainly a time for celebration and enjoying delicious food with friends and family. However, it’s critical for pet owners to be extremely vigilant and keep people food away from pets. By understanding the dangers of toxic and unhealthy foods for dogs and cats, we can make sure our furry companions stay safe and healthy this holiday season.

Digestive Upsets From Excess Fat and Grease

Digestive Upsets From Excess Fat and Grease

The deliciousness of holiday meals is one of the best parts of the season, but all that rich, fatty food can be tough on our pet’s tummies. Too much grease, fat, or oil in a pet’s diet can cause digestive upset like vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

As pet owners fill up on roasted meats, gravy, and other greasy goods, it’s tempting to give pets table scraps and leftovers. However, excess fat and oils are hard for many pets to digest and can irritate their stomachs. Within a few hours of eating fatty foods, pets may experience nausea, cramping, or diarrhea. In severe cases, the upset can last for days.

To avoid digestive problems in pets, limit excess fats and oils. Don’t give pets fatty table scraps, greasy leftovers, or meat trimmings. Stick to a normal diet and avoid changing your pet’s food during the holidays. If you do give treats, choose lean options like carrots, green beans, broccoli, or plain rice.

Watch pets closely after holiday meals for signs of upset like:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Excessive gas

  • Abdominal pain or restlessness

If a pet shows these symptoms for more than a day, or seems very uncomfortable, contact a vet. They can provide medication to settle the stomach and prevent dehydration.

The holidays should be an enjoyable time for all members of the family, including our pets. By avoiding digestive dangers, monitoring pets after rich meals, and sticking to normal diets as much as possible, pet owners can make sure furry friends stay happy and healthy all season long.

Choking Hazards From Nuts, Pits and Bones

Choking hazards from nuts, pits and bones are some of the most frightening dangers for pets during the holidays. It’s easy for pets to gobble up discarded nut shells, fruit pits, and bones in the festive chaos and excitement. These items can easily get stuck in a pet’s throat or digestive tract, creating a choking emergency or internal injury.

As you snack on holiday nuts like almonds, walnuts or pecans, be extremely careful to dispose of the shells properly in a sealed trash bag or container. Don’t just toss shells in the regular garbage where pets can easily access them. The hard, jagged shells can scratch or puncture a pet’s throat or stomach.

Fruit like cherries, peaches, plums and apricots also pose risks from their pits. Never assume a pet won’t eat a pit just because the fruit flesh has been removed. Pits contain chemicals like cyanide that can be toxic in large amounts, and the pits themselves are a choking threat. Dispose of pits securely in the trash.

Bones from the holiday ham, turkey or prime rib may seem like treats for pets, but cooked bones become brittle and can splinter, puncturing the digestive tract. Never give cooked bones to pets. Raw bones can also be a hazard, as pets may choke on bone shards or the bones may cause obstructions.

Make the holidays safe and enjoyable for your pets by securing or disposing of any foods or treats that could present choking, toxicity or internal injury risks. Your furry friends will thank you for it, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ve protected them during this season of indulgence. By staying alert to these dangers and taking some simple precautions, your whole family — pets included — can safely enjoy the holidays.

Allergies and Sensitivities to New Ingredients

Allergies and Food Sensitivities Pets that may be allergic to certain substances can have adverse reactions to unexpected holiday treats that may include harmful ingredients. Some foods may even exacerbate allergic reactions and cause ongoing discomfort and difficulties for sensitive pets.

Your furry friend may be allergic or sensitive to ingredients they’ve never been exposed to before, like pumpkin, cinnamon, or nutmeg. While these seasonal spices are usually harmless in moderation, for a pet with food allergies or sensitivities, even a small amount can cause a reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction or sensitivity in pets include:

  • Scratching, licking, or chewing excessively at their paws, face or other areas

  • Developing skin rashes, hives, or inflammation

  • Vomiting or experiencing diarrhea

  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps

  • Respiratory problems like sneezing, coughing, or wheezing

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid feeding your pet any human foods over the holidays. Stick to their regular diet and treats to ensure their comfort and health. However, if your pet does experience an allergic reaction, contact your vet immediately. They may prescribe antihistamines, steroids, or other medications to reduce symptoms like swelling, itching, and digestive upset.

In many cases, the reaction will subside once the allergen has been eliminated from their system. But for pets with severe or life-threatening allergic reactions, immediate veterinary care is critical. It’s always better to be safe than sorry – if you suspect your pet is having an allergic reaction, contact your vet right away for advice and treatment recommendations.

The holidays should be an enjoyable time for the whole family, including your faithful furry companions. By being vigilant about pet allergies and food sensitivities, providing a consistent diet, and contacting your vet with any concerns, you can keep your pets happy, healthy and out of danger this season.

How to Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

To keep your furry friends safe this holiday season, be extra vigilant about what they may ingest. Many common foods and drinks can be dangerous or even deadly.

Keep food out of reach.

The simplest way to avoid danger is by keeping people food inaccessible to pets. Securely store snacks, leftovers, and trash in cabinets, on high shelves, or behind closed doors where curious noses and paws can’t get into them.

Avoid toxic ingredients.

Chocolate, coffee, alcohol, grapes, and raisins should be on the “no” list for pets. Macadamia nuts, pistachios, and garlic are also harmful. Even sugar-free gum and candy containing xylitol can be lethal. If your pet eats any of these, call your vet or an animal poison control center immediately.

Watch out for bones and pits.

Chicken, turkey and ham bones, as well as fruit pits, pose risks for choking, intestinal blockages or damaged teeth. Make sure all leftovers are bone- and pit-free before giving any to your pets.

Limit fatty foods.

While a few scraps of lean meat, veggies or bread likely won’t hurt, too much rich, fatty food can lead to pancreatitis in pets. Stick to your pet’s regular diet and only offer minimal treats.

Provide exercise and attention.

Holiday excitement and changes in routine can stress out pets. Make sure your companions get plenty of exercise, play, and affection during this busy season. Sticking to a regular feeding and walking schedule will also help keep them happy and healthy.

By keeping dangerous foods out of reach, avoiding toxic ingredients, watching out for bones and pits, limiting fatty treats, and providing plenty of exercise and attention, you can make sure your furry family members remain safe and able to fully enjoy all the holiday festivities with you. After all, they’re part of the family too!


With so many delicious dangers lurking around the holidays for our furry friends, the best gift you can give your pets is knowledge and protection. Educate your family and guests on which foods are off-limits to avoid accidental poisoning or upset tummies. Keep food scraps securely out of reach and the trash tightly sealed. And if an accident does happen, know the signs of distress in your cat or dog and don’t hesitate to call your vet. The holidays are meant for celebrating with loved ones, so make sure your pets stay happy and healthy this season – your faithful companions deserve nothing less.


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