The Christmas season is a time to celebrate with friends and family, make some everlasting memories, and, of course, enjoy some good food. Although holiday treats are tasty and delicious to us, there are many foods that can cause unwanted issues to our pets this season.
Chocolates of all shapes, sizes, and flavours are prevalent in most households this time of year. Depending on the type of chocolate, different negative effects can be seen in our pets. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous, as the large amount of cocoa present in this chocolate causes vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, shaking/trembling, restlessness—and, in the worst case scenario: seizures, coma, and potentially death.
Milk chocolate is not quite as dangerous as dark chocolate due to a lower cocoa content in the chocolate, however, it is important to seek veterinary attention regardless of the type and amount of chocolate eaten by your pet. White chocolate has minimal cocoa, but due to the high fat and sugar content, most common consequences include vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially signs of pancreatitis since most pets are not used to the high fat content present in an overload of chocolate. Signs of pancreatitis to watch for are lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, a decreased appetite, or a painful and uncomfortable abdomen.
Home-baked goods can also cause signs of intestinal upset or pancreatitis if ingested in large amounts. Those who bake sugar-free and use artificial sweeteners need to use extra caution if pets ingest this baking. Xylitol in particular is a common artificial sweetener that is extremely toxic to pets, as it causes a rapid and very severe drop in blood sugar that can result in seizures, coma, and death if immediate veterinary assistance is not sought. Xylitol is also present in many sugar-free gums and candies, so it’s important to keep these products away from your pet year-round.
Christmas dinner can also be a time for concern, as those tasty turkey drippings or fatty trimmings off the ham can later result in unwellness for pets. Most side effects are again related to the intestinal tract. Avoid giving your pet cooked bones as well, as there is a potential for them to splinter and potentially become lodged in the intestinal tract requiring surgery to remove. Consider careful placement of garbage in a location your pet does not have access to, as the aroma from the garbage can be too tempting for many pets to resist!
The holiday season is a time to enjoy, and taking a few extra precautions can help keep your pet safe this time of year. If you are ever unsure whether something your pet ate will be dangerous to their health, seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible to minimize the consequences to your mischievous four-legged friends!
Dr. Corinna Jensen is a veterinarian with the North Peace Veterinary Clinic.