Holiday Pet Safety: Dangerous Holiday Foods for Pets

The holiday season is here, and that means the tantalizing scent of all your favorite holiday foods will soon be wafting through the kitchen! 

But remember, just because you love pecan pie doesn’t mean Fido will. It’s important to know which holiday foods are unhealthy or even toxic for your pets, so you can keep your best buddies safe this holiday season.

We advise you to display the phone numbers of your vet, local pet emergency center and the ASPCA Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline (888-426-4435) in an obvious location. If you think your pet has consumed something dangerous, don’t hesitate to call for help. 

No Safe Amount

For some human foods, even a small taste can be extremely harmful for our furry pals. We’ve listed them in order starting with the most dangerous, but take accidental consumption of any of the following foods very seriously. 

Raisins, Grapes and Currants

That means no fruitcake, oatmeal raisin cookies or rugelach pastry for your four-legged friends!

Grapes and their related foods have been known to cause sudden kidney failure in pets. Even a small amount can be fatal or lead to severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Keep any food containing raisins or grapes away from your pets, and watch the wine as well. That’s especially true for mulled wine, which contains multiple no-go foods: grapes, alcohol and spices.

Xylitol: Sugarless Gum, Sugarless Candy and Toothpaste

This sugar-free substitute is safe for humans but extremely toxic for pets. Even a small amount of xylitol can be fatal, causing liver failure and a sudden drop in blood sugar.

Be careful of candy and other artificially sweetened foods, since even sugar-free cake mix, syrups and sauces now contain xylitol.

If you have lots of people in the house and bags sitting around, watch out for Fido stealing a packet of gum from an open purse! Also, don’t let holiday guests leave travel toothpaste sitting out in the bathroom if your pet’s a counter-surfer.

Onions, Garlic, Leeks and Chives

Onions and other foods in the Allium family contain thiosulphate. Toxic to pets, thiosulphate may lead to hemolytic anemia and cause red blood cells to burst — which is exactly as scary as it sounds! Onions seem to be the worst offenders, but its related foods also contain the same compound, so avoid them all to stay safe.

You’re unlikely to let your dog eat an onion ring on its own, but watch out for when onion or garlic is used as flavoring. Holiday meats are often flavored with onion, garlic or excessive spice — so keep Rover away from the plate of garlic sausages. At Hanukkah celebrations, remember that latkes are onion-heavy as well.

The signs of thiosulphate poisoning include lethargy, shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhea. 

Macadamia Nuts

Guard the macadamia nut cookies! 

The toxin hasn’t been identified, but macadamia nuts seem to contain a compound that causes neurological symptoms in pets such as tremors, disorientation or even temporary paralysis. If you think your pet has ingested macadamia nuts, contact your vet or ASPCA Poison Control Center right away.

Chocolate and Cocoa

It wouldn’t be Christmas without an excess of chocolate! But before you set out the holiday candy bowl, be sure it’s out of your pets reach. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine — another human-safe compound that is toxic to pets.

Ingesting small amounts of chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while letting your pet eat a large amount is extremely dangerous and may result in seizures or heart arrhythmias.

Keep all chocolate candy, cookies and cakes away from your dogs and cats. At Hanukkah, try to keep track of how many gelt chocolate coins you put out so you can make sure your pet doesn’t steal any.


This popular holiday spice contains myristicin, which is a dangerous hallucinogen for pets. If your pet consumes enough nutmeg, this compound can cause seizures, tremors, nervous system problems, shock or even death.

That’s why it’s imperative to keep any kind of flavored food like pumpkin pie or eggnog away from your kitties and pups. Eggnog is actually a triple threat: it contains nutmeg, alcohol and high amounts of dairy. You’ll find all three on this list of foods to avoid!

Best Avoided

A tiny amount of the following foods or drinks are unlikely to cause harm, but we strongly recommend avoiding them anyway, just to be safe. Don’t panic if you see your pet sneak a bite, but do watch them closely. It may not take very much of these foods to cause problems for your pet.

Coffee and Tea

A daily dose of caffeine may be a necessity for drowsy humans, but it’s actually unsafe for pets in high enough amounts.

If you catch your pet lapping up a little tea from an unwatched mug, that’s usually not a cause for concern — but if your pet eats any highly concentrated caffeine (such as used tea bags from the trash or a packet of coffee grounds) we advise you call ASPCA Poison Control Center right away.

Cooked Bones

Unlike the soft, raw bones found in Nature’s Advantage dog food that can be easily digested by your pup, cooked bones are another story.

When bones are cooked they become dehydrated and brittle.That’s why they may snap, splinter or puncture your pet’s intestines or get stuck in their throat.

Don’t throw Fido a bone this holiday season, no matter how long he begs!

Fatty Foods: Cured Meats, Turkey Skins and Gravy

While you may be tempted to toss Rover a bit of meat scraps while you’re carving your Thanksgiving turkey, Hanukkah brisket or Christmas ham, we advise in not sharing the excess fat or trimmings with your pets.

Eating too much fatty food all at once can overwhelm your pet’s system and trigger a dangerous condition known as pancreatitis. This is when your pet’s pancreas becomes inflamed, resulting in abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Although it’s unlikely, pancreatitis can even be life-threatening if it is very severe.

Cured meats, turkey skins and gravy are all very high in fat content and therefore best avoided this holiday season. Even if a bite or two of turkey fat doesn’t cause pancreatitis in your pet, meats processed for human consumption are unhealthy for your dog or cat anyway! The meat we humans love tends to be very fatty, flavored and also quite salty.

We know your little carnivore craves meat — which is why Nature’s Advantage dog food is stuffed with healthy, safe, natural meat that is a much better option for Rover than your holiday leftovers!

Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts and Pistachios

Nuts are a popular component of many holiday meals and parties, either on their own or as ingredients.

An almond or two probably won’t hurt anything if you accidentally drop one on the floor and your pet snatches it up, but try your best to avoid it. Nuts are difficult for your pets to digest, and they’re often highly salted. They’re also very fatty, which means they could cause pancreatitis in extreme circumstances.

If you’re using nuts as party snacks and want to give your pets something to crunch on, too, stick to safe and yummy Nature’s Advantage dog treats!


Don’t let your pet be a lush! Just like in humans, alcohol poisoning from overconsumption is possible in pets.

For most of us, it would take quite a few Christmas cocktails to reach a dangerous blood alcohol level. But if you have a small dog or cat, all it takes is a few unsupervised minutes at the punch bowl to have the same effect.

Drink safely this holiday season and keep an eye on all adult beverages. If you do think your pets may have gotten into the liquor, watch them closely for staggering, difficulty breathing or other signs of distress — and take action immediately if you see any.

Raw Dough, Breads and Rolls

Baked goods aren’t great for your pets anyway because of their high levels of sugar and carbs, but it’s important to be especially wary of raw dough, which can expand rapidly in your pet’s stomach and give your poor kitty or pup severe abdominal pain and bloating.

Make sure to keep all the dough away from your pets at this year’s holiday bake-off!

Oranges, Tangerines, Lemons, Limes and Grapefruits

Oranges are a very popular Christmas addition, but be careful as citric acid is mildly toxic for pets and can cause an upset stomach.

We’ve all seen internet videos where pet owners convince their dog or cat to lick a lemon and then record their pet’s humorous reaction, but the ASPCA has advised against letting your pet have a taste. Even though your pet would probably have to eat a large amount of citrus fruit to experience ill-effects, if it’s bad for them and they hate it, why would you give it to your best pal?

Do your pets a favor this holiday season and keep the oranges or orange-flavored foods out of their reach. (Most pets are disgusted by the scent of citrus anyway, but we all know a determined dog or two who will not be deterred by yucky smells!)


Despite the perception that pets (especially cats) love milk and cream, pets actually don’t produce very much lactase (the enzyme that breaks down dairy products). That means too much dairy all at once can lead to diarrhea or other digestive problems.

The occasional cheese cube snack is probably fine, but don’t use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge your pet and give them a gassy tummy-ache as a result!

Practice good holiday pet safety this year by keeping all “people food” away from your pets — especially those foods that are dangerous or toxic for dogs and cats.

If you do see any vomiting or diarrhea or unusual behavior from your pets, monitor them closely and call your vet or the ASPCA Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline (888-426-4435) if you’re concerned. This is especially true if you know your pet consumed something very dangerous like grapes, onions or xylitol.

To make sure you and your best pals have a safe and happy holiday season, skip the table scraps, stay aware of what your pets have access to and feed Fido only their usual Nature’s Advantage food and treats!

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