New Year’s Eve leftovers can be toxic to cats and dogs. Here’s what to do if your pet eats it

During the holidays, we like to treat ourselves to foods we don’t normally eat. As a pet owner myself, I know that people want to feed their four-legged friends too.

As a veterinarian and veterinary researcher, I know that many common foods—some of which are very popular around the holidays—are dangerous to pets.

Here are some food-related problems that vets regularly encounter during holiday emergencies, and what to do if they happen.


Turkey with gravy is perhaps one of the most popular holiday dishes. And most dogs and cats will agree that turkey is a delicious treat.

However, the fats in turkey skin and accompanying fatty foods such as gravy, butter or lard are not suitable for cats and dogs. Pets that ingest too much fat can develop pancreatitis—inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that helps break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Pancreatitis causes the pancreas to leak digestive enzymes and eventually “digest” itself. If left untreated, this inflammation can affect other organs, such as the kidneys and liver, and can even lead to blood clots.

The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are vomiting and diarrhea. A pet suffering from pancreatitis should be taken to the nearest veterinary hospital or veterinary emergency room as soon as possible. Blood tests will be done there, including a special test for pancreatic enzymes called pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity, or ILP.

The treatment of this inflammation consists mainly of treating the symptoms. The animal is given intravenous fluids to help restore electrolyte balance, as well as nausea and pain medication to stop vomiting. Antibiotics, liver protectors and probiotics may be required, as well as a special diet.

Onions, no, and the bread is average

If the only problem was Turkish! Many other foods that people love to eat during the holidays can be harmful to pets.

Several types of allium used for holiday dishes, such as leeks, garlic, onions, fennel and fennel, are beneficial for human health. For dogs and cats, on the contrary, they are poisonous. If animals consume it, hemolytic anemia can develop – a decrease in the number of red blood cells. In general, the symptoms of the disease, which appear a few days after eating, are the following: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and jaundice.

To treat hemolytic anemia, veterinarians run blood tests to determine if a blood transfusion is needed. Allium poisoning symptoms are treated with IV solutions, antioxidants, and anti-nausea medications.

Yeast foods are part of holiday meals, as are some breads. It is important to keep them out of your pet’s reach. Yeast can ferment in the stomach and produce toxic amounts of ethanol. Ethanol toxicity can cause metabolic acidosis in animals and can cause sudden drops in blood sugar, respiratory depression, convulsions, and cardiac arrest.

Typically, pet owners suspect metabolic acidosis because there are very few noticeable symptoms. Therefore, if there is a possibility that an animal has ingested any kind of cooked or raw yeast paste, it should be taken to a veterinary emergency immediately.

Animals can also become intoxicated with ethanol by drinking cocktails or beer, so keep all alcoholic beverages away from them.

No chocolate!

But chocolate, the holiday treat that everyone loves to give?

Methylxanthines, such as theobromine and caffeine, are toxic to dogs and cats. When veterinarians provide emergency care for chocolate ingestion, it’s often because children share their treats with their beloved pets.

Chocolate contains ingredients that are toxic to pets but harmless to humans.
Nathan Bilow/Photodisc via Getty Images

Pets who ingest chocolate can get “chocolate poisoning” because methylxanthines build up in their bodies and make them sick. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include tremors, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and even seizures.

This poisoning is a medical emergency. The animal’s stomach should be emptied and treated with infusion and activated charcoal. The vet will want to know the type of chocolate and how much the animal is consuming, as some chocolates, such as dark chocolate, can have more serious toxic effects.

Chocolate also contains a lot of fat, which will not please a cat or dog’s pancreas.

Grapes and dogs don’t mix

What about fruit? There is one fruit that is very toxic to dogs that often appears on holiday menus: grapes, whether fresh or dried in the form of raisins.

Tartaric acid in grapes can cause acute kidney disease. Symptoms of kidney failure in a dog include vomiting, intermittent diarrhea, and increased water intake.

Acute renal failure in dogs is a medical emergency. If in doubt, the animal should be taken to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Treatment is usually limited to stabilization with intravenous solution.

A sweet poison

Although xylitol poisoning is one of the most common emergencies faced by veterinarians, it is little known to pet owners.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener often used in sugar-free products. Although safe for humans, it is a fast-acting and potentially fatal poison for cats and dogs.

Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a rapid release of insulin from the animal’s liver, causing hypoglycemia, an abnormally low blood glucose level. Symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and convulsions, loss of limb coordination (ataxia) appear within 30 minutes.

Emergency treatment of an animal poisoned with xylitol consists of administering intravenous dextrose solution to raise blood sugar and carefully monitoring the evolution of the condition.

The result? Many delicious foods that are safe for humans can be very dangerous for all pets—not just cats and dogs, but also birds, reptiles, and small creatures like mice, hamsters, and gerbils. To make the holidays wonderful for your furry or furry friends, feed them pet store or vet-purchased treats and keep them away from the kitchen counter and garbage can.

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