For many of us, our pets are like family. So, around the holiday season, it’s only natural we’d share Christmas food with our dogs and cats, like you would any other family member.
However, before you do share some ham with Fido or Max, you need to know the common toxic or dangerous Christmas foods for pets. The last thing you want on Christmas Day is to spend your time worrying about your dog, cat, bird or other animals, or admitting them to a vet for treatment. After all, you want everyone to be happy on Christmas.
So, read through this list and let the kids and other family members know these Christmas foods are off limits for under-the-table snacks this year.
RACQ’s Top 8 Foods Not to Give Pets
1. Milk, cheese and dairy products.
Cats and dogs can be lactose intolerant, just like humans. However, some can tolerate lactose products, like milk, in small doses.
If your pet is on a specific diet or medication, always check with your vet first as dairy products may interfere with them. Of course, if you do give your pet dairy and they show any sign of illness, like diarrhoea or vomiting, give your local vet a call and avoid feeding them dairy in the future.
Should you be giving your pets dairy regularly?
Pets with a high-quality diet do not need additional calcium or nutrient supplements, unless specified by your vet. So, no, unless your dog or cat is lactose tolerant and they love a little milk or cheese every now and then, you don’t need to add dairy to a pet’s diet.
2. Chocolate and caffeine.
According to the RACQ, chocolate and caffeinated products contain theobromine, making it one of the most common toxic Christmas foods for pets. Caffeine alone can have the same impacts it has on humans with restlessness, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, so should be avoided being given to any animal.
Theobromine can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and other problems in cats and dogs, and will require medical intervention. Your vet will likely induce vomiting to help your pet of the toxin, but other treatment may be provided. It’s important you know how much chocolate and the type of chocolate the animal ate, as some may provide mild results and others are very serious.
What to do if your pet eats chocolate.
- Immediately take the chocolate away from the animal, but keep the packaging for the vet.
- It’s important to stay calm to reduce stress on your dog or cat.
- Call your vet and let them know the type of chocolate they ate, percentage of cocoa and ask if you should come in.
- Follow the vet’s instructions, including if they say to come in.
- If you’re required to take your pet to the vet, we recommend placing them on top of towels in case they do vomit or get diarrhoea while you’re travelling.
3. Grapes and raisins.
Grapes and raisins are one of the many fruits and vegetables difficult for cats and dogs to digest. However, they are toxic for dogs and can cause vomiting, leading to potential dehydration and kidney failure.
The impact of grapes and raisins on cats is apparently unknown, but it is suggested it may cause kidney issues in them also. Grapes can also be a choking hazard for smaller cats and dogs, so it’s another reason to not give them to them, if you didn’t have one already.
4. Onion, garlic, chives and leeks.
Onion, garlic, chives and leeks are part of the Allium family, and are one of the many toxic Christmas ingredients for pets. According to Pet Poison Helpline, some breeds of cats and dogs are more sensitive to garlic, onion and the like, with garlic being considered the most potent of them all.
What onion, garlic, chives and leeks does to pets is damage their red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. This can lead to a variety of other issues, but may be seen through fatigue, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness and collapsing. The impacts may not be seen for several days after consumption.
However, small accidental amounts of onion, garlic, chives and leeks may not have too much impact, but it’s always best to check with your vet.
Think a sip of Christmas alcohol won’t harm your pet? Turns out it could be fatal.
It’s suggested as little as a teaspoon of alcohol can cause brain and liver damage in cats and kidney failure in dogs. Signs of animal alcohol consumption include diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, coma, trouble breathing, lack of coordination and more.
If you suspect your animal has consumed alcohol, contact your vet immediately.
Of course, you can get dog or cat wine or beer, which is a non-alcoholic beverage made specifically for your pet.
6. Cooked bones.
Cooked bones are a highly dangerous Christmas food for pets. When bones are cooked (like a chicken or turkey roast carcass), they can splinter and cause internal damage in your animal.
Speak to your vet about if raw animal bones are a good addition to your pet’s diet.
7. Artificial sweeteners.
With more and more diets hitting the market, artificial sweeteners are appearing in almost everything these days, including toothpaste, Christmas foods and more. As artificial sweeteners cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, they are toxic in animals. They can cause liver failure, seizures and even potential death.
To be on the safe side of not giving your dog or cat artificial sweeteners, it’s best to stick to foods only made for your pets or recommended by your vet. They can recommend if there are additional Christmas foods for pets you may want to give them as a treat.
Types of artificial sweeteners in Australia:
- Aspartame (found in Equal, known as additive 951).
- Saccharin (additive 954).
- Sucralose (found in Splenda, known as additive 955).
- Acesulfame potassium (also known as Ace-K or additive 950).
- Cyclamate (additive 952).
- Alitame (additive 956).
- Neotame (additive 961).
8. Macadamia nuts.
According to The Spruce Pets, it’s unknown why macadamia nuts are toxic to animals. Signs of your dog ingesting macadamia nuts may include:
- Increased heart and breathing rates.
- Pale gums.
- Weakness in hind legs.
Like any consumption of toxic foods for pets, call your local veterinarian the second you believe your animal has consumed macadamia nuts.
3 Other Toxic Christmas Foods for Pets
1. Fat trimmings.
Chicken skin, pork crackling, gravies and other popular Christmas foods and treats are often high in fat. High-fat foods can cause digestive issues in animals and cause pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas.
Fats also contain more calories, so if your cat or dog is already struggling with their weight, it’s not a good meal or snack for them. It may also upset their stomach too.
2. Salty foods, like Christmas ham.
Salt is toxic for cats and dogs. Your animals may be able to ingest salt from takeaway food, home cooking, Christmas ham, bacon, homemade play dough, rock salt, table salt, sea water and more.
Consuming too much salt may lead to your dog or cat vomiting, having diarrhea, eating less, being lethargic, having seizures and other consequences. If your pet is showing any of these signs, you should contact your local vet, or emergency vet if it’s after-hours, like Christmas Day.
3. Undercooked or leftover meats, like turkey.
Like you wouldn’t eat or serve undercooked or leftover meats not correctly stored, you shouldn’t give them to your dog or cat. Animals, like humans, can suffer the effects of e-Coli and other dangerous bacterias found in undercooked or incorrectly stored meat and foods.
You should be even more cautious if the meat contains cooked bones. As mentioned, the bones can splinter and cause damage to your animal’s internal organs.
You can always find a list of local vets on localsearch.com.au.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informational purposes only and does not replace the advice from an animal health professional. Localsearch nor the author are responsible for any misuse or misunderstanding of any information above.