One of the greatest joys of the holiday season are the foods we share with family and friends. But it’s important that we’re careful during this season of giving with our pets. Most Pet Parents are aware of the risks of feeding certain human foods like chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, but there are other risks lurking on holiday tables.
One such danger is the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free gum that is now increasingly popular in baking as a sugar substitute. The first report of xylitol toxicity in dogs occurred over a decade ago and there seems to have been an increase in the number of cases reported over the past five years.
Less than one-eighth teaspoon of xylitol can cause dangerously low blood sugar in a 10-pound dog. Just a half-teaspoon could also cause serious and potentially irreversible liver damage. So avoid feeding your dogs any sugar-free gum, cookies, breads and cakes that might have xylitol and other artificial sweeteners in them.
Stick with baked good treats specifically made for pets by a reputable manufacturer. It is not currently known if xylitol is toxic for cats but it is best avoided until more studies are developed.
While not toxic in the strict sense of the word, there are other holiday foods that are best kept away from pets. We may love the idea of spoiling our furry friends with a little turkey or gravy, but these types of foods can cause a number of problems in dogs and cats ranging from gastroenteritis (an upset stomach), to more serious and potentially fatal conditions such as bowel obstructions from bones or corn cobs or pancreatitis (both of which are more common in dogs than cats).
So as with baked treats, it’s best to avoid these rich human foods and perhaps consider giving a few dog or cat specific treats in moderation. You could opt for canned food as a special holiday indulgence. Many of these pet formulas have holiday-specific recipes like turkey and dressing or shepherd’s pie.
You could also provide your dogs healthy snacks like a few carrots, blueberries or a sliver of apple. For cats, a half-teaspoon of cooked, unseasoned tuna, salmon or chicken tend to be safer treats than fruits and vegetables.
Food is not the only risk to our pet’s health during the holidays. Cats in particular have a tendency to chew on and eat string-like objects, such as tinsel and ribbon. These items can cause serious problems as they may wrap around the base of the tongue and/or lodge in the bowel.
Dogs can also be curious about new objects they find on or near the ground, increasing their risk of swallowing things like gifts, tree needles, potpourri and ornaments.
With these decoration temptations in mind, I recommend that pet parents keep them well out of reach of their pets, or consider doing without these types of items for the holiday season. A healthy pet can help ensure a happy holiday season for the whole family.