With the holidays quickly approaching, the season is filled with family gatherings and celebrations. While it may be difficult, it’s important to resist the temptation to offer your dog human food or treats from your holiday spread. Not only can sharing table scraps add calories and create a beggar or finicky eater, it can be dangerous.
“Certain holiday foods are toxic to a dog and could have harmful consequences if consumed,” advises Purina Chief Veterinary Officer Kurt Venator, DVM. “It’s important to recognize which foods are, indeed, toxic to a dog and be able to identify the corresponding signs should your dog ingest any of these hazardous foods.”
Onions, Garlic, Leeks & Chives
These common cooking ingredients can be lethal to a dog, and the cooking process does not reduce the toxicity of these foods. What’s more, concentrated forms of garlic and onion, such as garlic powder and some onion soup mixes, can also be toxic. “These foods are part of the Allium family and contain organosulfides,” Dr. Venator explains. “Consumption of these vegetables can result in oxidative damage to red bloods cells causing anemia, as well as gastrointestinal tract upset.” If your dog has accidentally consumed any of these foods, signs may include lethargy, pale gums, increased heart and respiratory rates, and collapse.
A danger dog owners may or may not be familiar with is xylitol, an artificial sweetener typically found in gum, mints, mouthwash, toothpaste and candy. “Xylitol is dangerous to a dog because it causes the sudden release of insulin, which in turn, induces hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar,” says Dr. Venator. Signs of ingested xylitol include vomiting, lethargy, collapse and seizures. In high doses, xylitol can also cause irreversible liver damage and could lead to a potentially fatal situation.
Grapes, Raisins & Currants
“Grapes, raisins and currants (which are more or less smaller raisins) are another group of foods toxic to a dog, though the exact ingredient within these foods that causes their toxicity is unknown,” Dr. Venator says. “Beyond the raw fruits themselves, a dog should also not consume products containing these ingredients, such as trail mixes, grape juice and some holiday cakes.” Common signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. Toxicity may lead to acute kidney failure and even death.
Consumption of alcohol, including alcoholic beverages, some mouthwashes and even fermented foods, can result in poisoning. Even just a couple teaspoons of a highly concentrated alcoholic beverage, such as bourbon, can be life threatening. “A dog should never, ever consume alcohol,” Dr. Venator warns. Initial signs of alcohol toxicity may include incoordination, lethargy, drowsiness, diarrhea and vomiting, and over time, may progress to difficulty breathing, respiratory failure, seizures, coma and death.
When a dog consumes yeast dough, the ingested dough can rise in the moist, warm stomach environment, causing gas accumulation in the process. “Aside from the pain, this also may result in a bloated or twisted stomach, also known as gastric-dilation volvulus, a serious medical emergency,” says Dr. Venator. “What’s more, the yeast can ferment, producing alcohol within the stomach that can be absorbed into a dog’s blood stream.”
If you suspect your dog has consumed any of these hazardous holiday foods, it’s crucial to take action right away. “Time is of the essence,” Dr. Venator advises. “Contact your veterinarian immediately so that he or she can advise on the most appropriate course of action.”