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5 Holiday Foods that are Hazardous to Pets

During the winter holiday season, it’s common for veterinarians to see an uptick in emergency vet visits. When you’re distracted by the festivities, some pets take the opportunity to beg for scraps from holiday guests, sneak food from platters and candy dishes, and even scrounge up edible gifts under the tree. To keep your pets safe this holiday season, take special care to keep them away from these five popular holiday foods.

Chocolate
Chocolate is toxic and, in large enough amounts, lethal to both cats and dogs. Cocoa beans naturally contain theobromine and caffeine, nervous system stimulants that make humans feel energized. Our pets are more sensitive to these chemical compounds, though, and can suffer from symptoms like elevated blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures from even small amounts of chocolate. The darker or more bitter the chocolate the higher concentration of cocoa powder it has, and the less your pet has to eat in order to be at risk for life-threatening symptoms. Keep all chocolate candies out of reach of pets, including chocolate used to make homemade cookies or sweets.

Raisins
Hot cross buns and fruitcake sometimes contain raisins, which are fatally toxic to cats and dogs. Fresh grapes, wine, and even currants can similarly put your pet at risk. Dogs and cats have been reported to suffer acute kidney failure after consuming grapes or raisins, though it’s unclear why. Symptoms of grape or raisin toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and excessive urination. The kidneys may then shut down, leading to decreased urine output and eventually death.

Ham
While your cat or dog may obsess over the main course during Christmas dinner, fatty scraps can, at best, give them an upset stomach. Dogs can develop a painful case may of acute pancreatitis after overindulging in just one overly fatty meal. While cats are less sensitive to fat, they may suffer diarrhea after sneaking too much ham. What’s more, cooked ham bones are a choking hazard for dogs, and they may crack teeth or cause gastric perforations.

Artificial Sweeteners
While sugar-free treats are great for humans with certain dietary restrictions, some of them are fatally toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that, shortly after being consumed, prompts the pancreas to release insulin. This leads to dangerously low blood sugar levels and ultimately can cause coma and death.

Nuts
Whether you’ll be roasting chestnuts over an open fire, or leaving out bowls of mixed nuts for your guests, you may be relieved to know that most types of nuts are not toxic to animals. Black walnuts and macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, but all other nuts, including chestnuts, peanuts, cashews, and other popular varieties are not known to cause toxicity. However, that does not mean they are totally safe for pets. Both roasted and raw nuts are high in fat and hard for pets to digest. Dogs can develop acute pancreatitis from the high content in nuts. In moderation, though, nut butters like peanut butter are okay for dogs.