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Holiday Safety Tips from Dr. Alicia Marquart 

Tis the Season, but with it brings a lot of potential dangers to your pet. Below is a list of safety tips for your pets this holiday season:

  1. Be careful of feeding your animal those extra scraps. Generally our Christmas food can be high in fat. Fatty foods for pets has a high rate or causing a disease called Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis causes lethargy, inappetance, vomiting and diarrhea. It often requires supportive care +/- hospitalization. Go ahead and give them some plain green beans or carrots instead.
  2. A lot of our holiday casseroles contain onions and/or garlic. Remember that these foods are toxic to our furry friends. Make sure you are not giving them any of those delicious scraps with these extra seasonings.
  3. Do not feed your pet the extra bones from the meat dishes this year. Those bones can break and then cause serious GI (vomiting/diarrhea) issues. In some cases, emergency surgery is needed.
  4. Many of those delicious deserts you eat contain chocolate. Remember that chocolate is toxic to your pet.
  5. All that gift wrapping can get tiring, but remember to put away any ribbons and/or strings. Cats love playing and eating them, which can lead to intestinal foreign bodies.
  6. Here is a list of foods to make your pet avoid during the holiday season (and always) and why


You can start noticing clinical signs 30-60 minutes after ingestion. You would notice nausea, vomiting, increased drinking/urination, dehydration, lethargy, abnormal gait and disorientation.


Avocado toxicosis is rare in dogs and cats. Avocado’s contain persin, which is more of a problem in cows, horses, birds, goats and fish. Clinical signs of Avacodo toxicosis is vomiting, diarrhea and can cause heart problems that lead to death. Again, this is very rare in our domestic small animals, but still a good idea to stay away from just in case.

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine

This is a real threat to our four legged friends. You generally start noticing clinical signs 1-2 hours after ingestion. You will notice restlessness, hyperactivity, vomiting, abnormal activity, abnormal gait, or diarrhea. It can lead to seizures or sudden death as well.


This is more for cats. Be careful with the stems, peels, seeds and fruits, which contain citrus oils. You may notice vomiting, diarrhea, depression or sensitivity to light. Luckily, most cats don’t find citrus appealing.

Grapes and Raisins

Depending on the dog, 1 raisin may kill them or 100 may do nothing. Even if your dog eats one, they should be seen right away because once you see clinical signs it is often too late to salvage your dog’s kidneys. Clinical signs include vomiting, inappetance, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, increased drinking/urination or decreased/no urination.

Macadamia nuts

This is another dog toxicity. Clinical signs are weakness, depression, vomiting, abnormal gait, joint/muscle pain, and swelling of the joints.

Milk and Dairy

This is more to help decrease the amount you have to clean up after the holidays. Dairy can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.


Most nuts contain a high amount of fat, which can cause pancreatitis. The clinical signs are inappetance, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.

Onions, Garlic and Chives

Cats are more at risk than dogs in this category, but it is still a risk for both. These vegetables and herbs can cause damage to red blood cells. You may notice lethargy and pale gums, but other clinical signs are very vague. This is usually a diagnosis that must be made by blood exams.

Raw, undercooked meat, eggs and bones

There are several bacteria that your dog and cats’ guts cannot tolerate anymore, which can lead to severe intestinal disease. An infection may require a significant surgery or hospitalization. There is always a risk that bones can cause chocking or splinter and cause damage somewhere along your animal’s gastrointestinal tract.

Salty foods

Clinical signs to watch for are vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, increased body temperature, seizures and can lead to death. Make sure your pet avoids those high salty snacks.


Look for this ingredient in gum, candy, baked goods and tooth paste. This will lead to liver damage and dangerously low amounts of glucose in the blood. Signs to watch for are vomiting, lethargy, abnormal gait that progresses to seizure activity. If noted, place syrup on your animal’s gums and rush them into the nearest hospital.

Yeast dough

The dough will start “cooking” in your pet’s stomach. This leads to bloat and can be an emergency situation. You will notice nausea, inappetance, retching and lethargy. The yeast will also produce ethanol (see alcohol toxicity).


If your pet eats/drinks any of these, please call us immediately, or if after hours, seek emergency assistance at one of our local animal emergency clinics:

  • Brentwood Animal Hospital: 314-962-2900; 2907 S. Brentwood Blvd.
  • The St. Louis Animal Emergency Clinic: 314-822-7600; 9937 Big Bend Rd.
  • Veterinary Specialty Services: 636-227-9400; 1021 Howard George Drive


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