Holiday Helpful: Sugary Sweets Are NOT Pet Treats!

By Dr. Lindsay Lane, Veterinarian

In the upcoming months we have 3 of my most favorite holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Of course my favorite thing about these holidays…the FOOD!  Who doesn’t love chocolate, turkey, gravy, and a most bountiful delicious array of the best sweets that you’re “allowed” to eat in mass quantities and not be judged by others?!  Now, while we enjoy these scrumptious delights the doctors and staff at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital just want to put a few cautions and reminders about some of the potential dangers that lurk in your treat baskets, bags, and plates for (let’s all agree, the most beloved family member) your dog and cat!  For this Halloween especially, let’s not turn those scary spooks into scary poops….or worse!

We’ll start off with the most common toxicity we encounter this time of year: chocolate.  Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s kisses, M&M’s, Snickers, brownies, chocolate covered fruit (improves it in my humble opinion) are all potentially quite harmful to your furry friends!  The primary chemicals in chocolate that can cause issues with our pets are methylxanthines.  These products are similar to a high dose of caffeine and can cause serious clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, elevated heart rate, and even seizures!  While the different types of chocolate all have varying severity of effects (dark chocolate and baking chocolate are more toxic as compared to milk chocolate and white chocolate) they all have the potential to cause serious harm and all should be kept away from your dog and cat.

Another threat to our pets involves some healthier eating: grapes and raisins.  While the majority of us want to enjoy the chocolate sweets, there are a few (you know who you are) that want to try and slip in the occasional box of raisins or grapes into our holiday gorging.  Sure they are healthy for us, but for the dog, absolutely not!  The scary thing about grapes and raisins is that we don’t actually know the substance that can make your pets sick, or even the quantity! Even as few as 5-7 grapes or raisins can make your pet extremely sick, from gastrointestinal distress (vomiting and diarrhea) or as severe as kidney failure!  Please do not ever feed your dog grapes or raisins, and better yet, just withhold them from Halloween bags (you’re welcome kids).

In sticking to our holiday potential threats, another concern we veterinarians have is the risk for pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis can occur anytime you feed your pet food they are not used to having, or like my dogs, they engage in crafty ninja-like missions to obtain food they shouldn’t have such as (but not limited to) rich gravy, large amounts of turkey, or any food item containing large amounts of fat (basically everything we eat, especially during the holidays)!  Pancreatitis can cause moderate to severe gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea) and can lead to significant electrolyte abnormalities which typically require your pet to be hospitalized.

Finally, our last bit of advice involves us, as your veterinarians, not wanting to remove foreign material from your dog or cat’s stomach and intestines!  Please keep decorations, wrappers, toys, string, ornaments, fruit pits, crafts, etc – the list goes on and on – away from your pets!  Dogs and cats frequently like to play with, chew up, and usually end up ingesting these items.  Sometimes we get lucky and they’ll pass on their own, but more frequently they need to be surgically removed.  So if you want to avoid a hefty vet bill and you don’t enjoy sifting through your pet’s stool, we suggest you heed this advice and just keep these items away from your pets!

As always, enjoy your holidays to the fullest but just remember that you and your pets can celebrate in different ways!  Let’s keep them safe and healthy this holiday season.  Should you ever notice anything “out of the ordinary” we are always here to help; you can call our office or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline anytime!

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