Why Human Food Can be Toxic to Pets

A dog receiving a treat.

A veterinarian and clinical veterinary researcher described that certain common foods are toxic to pets, including dogs. (Image: via Pixaby)

People usually indulge in fine cuisine over the holidays. For pet owners, it’s understandable that many want to spoil their pets with unique goodies.

However, a veterinarian and clinical veterinary researcher described that certain common foods are toxic to pets, including dogs.

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Here are some of the most typical food-related problems seen in animal hospitals and what to do if they occur.

Fatty foods

Turkey with gravy is one of the most popular holiday dishes. And most dogs and kittens would agree with their owners that roast turkey is delectable.

However, the fat in turkey skin and the excess of fatty, greasy items that might accompany it, such as gravy, butter, and bacon, do not agree with kittens and dogs.

Pets who consume excessive fat may develop pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that aids in the breakdown of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, the veterinarian explains further.

The pancreas leaks digestive enzymes and eventually “digests” itself due to pancreatitis. If left untreated, pancreatitis can damage other organ systems, such as the kidneys and liver, and cause blood clotting.


Vomiting and diarrhea are the most prevalent symptoms of pancreatitis. Pets with pancreatitis should be taken to the nearest veterinary facility or emergency room. The veterinarian will do diagnostic blood tests, including a test for pancreatic enzymes known as pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity.

Pancreatitis treatment primarily focuses on symptom management. The pet is given IV fluids to restore electrolyte balance and anti-nausea and pain relievers to halt the vomiting. In addition, antibiotics, liver protectants, probiotics, and a specific diet may be required.

Veterinarian listening to the heart of a little boston terrier dog using a stethoscope.
Pets with pancreatitis should be taken to the nearest veterinary facility or emergency room. (Image: Rubén Peña Herráez via Dreamstime)

Onions and bread

Many popular seasonal items can also be harmful to dogs.

Several allium species used in holiday cuisine, including leeks, garlic, onions, chives, and shallots, benefit human health. Alliums, on the other hand, are harmful to dogs and cats. In addition, they can induce hemolytic anemia (a reduction in the number of red blood cells) if consumed.


Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and jaundice are common symptoms of hemolytic anemia that usually develop a few days after intake.

Blood tests are performed on dogs to assess whether a transfusion is required to treat hemolytic anemia. They treat allium poisoning symptoms with IV fluids, antioxidants, and anti-nausea medications.

Yeast-risen foods such as rolls and bread are other holiday meal favorites that should be kept away from dogs and other animals. In a warm stomach, the yeast in these meals can ferment and generate lethal quantities of ethanol.

Ethanol poisoning in dogs can result in metabolic acidosis, which can induce a decline in blood glucose, respiratory depression, convulsions, and cardiac arrest.

Because metabolic acidosis has few apparent signs, pet owners usually do not notice illness until it is nearly too late. So, if you suspect your pet has eaten any form of cooked or raw yeast dough, take it to a veterinary emergency room immediately.


How about fruits? Well, a fruit very toxic to dogs often shows up at holiday gatherings: grapes, fresh and dehydrated into raisins.

If eaten, the tartaric acid in grapes or raisins may cause acute kidney disease. Dogs’ common signs of acute kidney disease are vomiting, intermittent diarrhea, and increased water intake.


Acute kidney disease in dogs is a medical emergency. The pet should be rushed to a veterinary hospital or ER immediately if it is suspected. Treatment is typically limited to stabilizing the pet with IV fluids.

Chocolates are one of the most popular holiday treats, but are they safe for pets?
Chocolates are one of the most popular holiday treats, but are they safe for pets? (Image: Etiennevoss via Dreamstime)


Chocolates are one of the most popular holiday treats, but are they safe for pets?

Ingredients that may entice people to chocolate, such as theobromine and caffeine, are poisonous to dogs and cats. Yet, when emergency veterinarians treat chocolate ingestion, we frequently learn that youngsters share their sweets with their cherished pets.

Pets that consume chocolate may experience “chocolate intoxication,” a disease in which methylxanthines build in the body and cause illness. Tremors, elevated heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and even seizures are symptoms of chocolate intoxication in dogs.


Pet chocolate intoxication is a medical emergency. The pet’s stomach must be emptied, and support treatment with IV fluids and activated charcoal must be administered. Because other types of chocolate, such as baked chocolate, might have more hazardous consequences, the vet will most likely want to know what kind and how much chocolate the cat ate.

Chocolate is high in fat. Thus, your cat’s or dog’s pancreas will not appreciate it.

Strategies to avoid an emergency

People usually indulge in fine cuisine over the holidays, and understandably, many pet owners desire to spoil their animals with unique goodies. But, unfortunately, certain common foods, including many beloved Christmas mainstays, can be toxic to dogs and cats.

A veterinarian and clinical veterinary researcher have introduced strategies to minimize these emergencies.

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