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Holiday dinners are meant for sharing — but not everything on your table is safe for your pet, says Dr. Tony Buffington, clinical nutritionist at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. While a taste of lean turkey or fresh vegetables is fine for your little buddies, there are some foods and beverages that are definitely off limits for them. Here's the breakdown, one food category at a time.
Bones: Chicken, duck and turkey bones splinter easily and can lodge in your pet’s mouth or throat or even perforate the intestines. Larger bones from other animals can cause intestinal blockage.
Onions and garlic: These seasonings in any form — fresh, cooked, dried or powdered — can damage red blood cells in pets, which can lead to anemia.
Alcohol: Especially lethal in cats and small dogs, beer, liquor or wine can damage your pet’s liver and brain. While dogs will try any liquor, cats are finicky and prefer milk-based mixed drinks like eggnog and White Russians.
Caffeine: Coffee and coffee grounds, tea, energy drinks and certain medications containing caffeine, when consumed in large enough quantities, can kill your pet.
Chocolate: Two compounds in chocolate and cocoa beans — caffeine and theobromine — can cause problems ranging from vomiting to seizures.
Grapes and raisins: Even small amounts of these fruits can make dogs sick, while larger amounts can cause kidney failure.
Unbaked bread dough: Small amounts of raw dough made with live yeast can expand in your pet's stomach causing a bellyache. Too much and your buddy can have difficulty breathing.
Raw eggs, meat and fish: When uncooked, these foods may be contaminated with salmonella or E coli, which can cause bloody diarrhea, intestinal problems and even death.
Xylitol: Consuming sugar-free gum, candy and baked goods containing this artificial sweetener can quickly lead to a severe decrease in blood sugar levels in pets. Disorientation and seizures can occur as early as 30 minutes, or as late as several hours, after ingesting it. In large amounts, xylitol can cause liver failure.
Fat trimmings: Sure, they’re delicious for pets, but they’re also dangerous. Too much fat, whether cooked or raw, can cause pancreatitis.
Spices: Nutmeg can cause seizures and even death. Sage could have your pet vomiting and cramping.
Walnuts and Macadamia Nuts: According to Consumer Affairs, within 12 hours of ingesting these nuts, dogs can experience difficulty standing, tremors, fever and an elevated heart rate that can lead to death.
Used food wrap and foil, toothpicks and skewers: They smell great to your pet but eating any of these can cause intestinal obstructions or perforation.
Any food in excess can be harmful, says Buffington, because it leads to obesity, which brings on even more problems for your pet. Instead of plying your pets with extra food, he suggests showing your love for dogs and cats in other ways such as playing and grooming.
If your pet shows signs of distress and you suspect that any of these foods were eaten, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.