Hollywood Florida's Best Vet Shares Holiday Safety Tips

Hollywood Florida's Best Vet Shares How You and Your Pets Can Have a Happy Holiday by Dr. Megan Cassels-Conway, DVM

The season for extravagant holiday feasts, gathering of family and friends, cookies and candy and all the decadence of the holidays. At the veterinary clinic the season for pancreatitis, gastroenteritis and chocolate toxicity. All the wonderful things we love about the holidays can spell disaster if our furry friends partake alongside us. Vomiting cats and dogs with diarrhea put a damper on the holiday spirit but can easily be prevented. Use this guide as your holiday helper this season to avoid the major culprits of the holiday pet woes.

Turkey, Ham, Drippings and Gravy

There's a good chance you're four-legged friends will be staring you down during your entire meal pred, but don't give in to the pouty eyes. Meat skin, fat, drippings and gravy can be extremely high in fat for pets. This is a level of fat they are not used to and their body cannot metabolize properly. These levels of fat result in pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas (the organ producing enzymes to break down fat in the intestines). Pancreatitis is typically seen as bloody vomiting and diarrhea, although both are not always seen. Pork products or turkey skin are frequent culprits of pancreatitis but any high fat food can do the trick. Pancreatitis can cause severe dehydration and can become life threatening. It is best to avoid human food for all pets.

Onions and Garlic

Members of the onion and garlic family can be toxic to dogs and cats in very low doses. Feeding any food that has been cooked with onions or garlic is enough to do the trick. Ingestion leads to destruction of red blood cells, needed to transport oxygen around the body. Dramatic anemia can occur within hours and leave your pet severely weak with breathing difficulty.

Nuts and Raisins

Some of our favorite holiday snacks and cookie ingredients can lead to severe medical concerns in pets. Macademia nuts can cause neurologic problems from weakness to seizures in dogs. Effects on cats are unknown. Raisins and grapes have an unknown component which causes severe kidney damage with as little as 1-2 grapes or raisins.


This is one most people know about but do you know just how little it takes? The darker the chocolate the more theobromine and caffeine, making baking chocolate the worst. Signs range from mild vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and heart arrythmias and eventually death. Baked goods are not quite as bad as pure chocolate but can still pack quite the punch.


Sugar substitutes are a common way we watch our waistlines over the holidays. Xyltitol is one of those sugar substitutes found in many candies, gum and even peanut butter. Canine bodies do not recognize a difference between xylitol and regular sugar and release large amounts of insulin which can result in severe hypoglycemia. Later on xylitol causes death of liver tissue.


This may seem like an obvious one but happens more often than you would think. Alcohol poisoning occurs in dogs and cats with much smaller amounts than you might imagine. For a small puppy or kitten, even a few licks of a spilt drink on the floor can affect the nervous system and heart. The holidays are full of wine, beer, eggnog and other festive libations. Enjoy the festivities but be sure to clean up spills and keep an eye on drinks, never leaving them unattended.

And if you just have to give in...

If those pouty puppy or kitty eyes get the better of you, what can you give your pet? Stick with raw or steamed vegetables and fruits. Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, spinach; carrots; apples and sweet potatoes are healthy, safe treats for pets when they au natural. Problems arise when they are cooked with butter, oil, cream or drippings. You can always give regular dog food or biscuits, as well in moderation. Sometimes your pet just wants to feel included and have a little snack while you eat.

If your pet is know to have eaten a toxic food or substance, call your veterinarian immediately. Daytime emergency care is offered at DPC Veterinary Hospital in Davie, FL. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet shows any of the signs discussed above. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us at (954) 989-9879.