Holiday No-Nos for Your Pets

It’s that time of year when we gather together with family and friends to share a grand Thanksgiving feast.

Many of us want to include our furry family members in the celebration but before you garnish up Buster’s or Tabby’s bowls with samplings of our savory plates, keep in mind that many of our favorite foods are toxic to cats and dogs.


Most people know not to give alcoholic drinks to their pets, however, alcohol can be found in some holiday dishes and desserts like rum-soaked fruit cake. Ethanol alcohol can cause dangerous drops of blood sugar level and blood pressure resulting in seizures and respiratory failure.

Yeast Dough:

Unbaked dough containing yeast contains ethanol and can have the same toxic effects as alcohol. Additionally, the yeast in the unbaked bread will expand in the warm moist stomach and cause a bloated stomach which can lead to twisting of the stomach resulting in a life-threatening situation (“bloat”). Clinical signs of “bloat” include vomiting, retching, a distended stomach, weakness, collapse, and death.

Grapes and Raisins:

Ingestion of just a few grapes or raisins can make your cat or dog sick. Larger quantities can lead to acute kidney failure and death.


Many types of nuts can give your dog an upset stomach. Macadamia nuts, in particular, are not usually fatal, but can cause vomiting, muscle, and joint pain, swelling and lethargy.


This spice is often used for baking in Thanksgiving meals. Ingested in high levels, nutmeg can cause tremors, seizures, and death.

Garlic and Onions:

Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks are in the Allium family and are toxic to dogs and cats. Garlic is five times as potent as onions. Both result in oxidative damage to red blood cells and an upset stomach. Small amounts of these foods in dogs may be safe, large ingestion can be very toxic and clinical signs of anemia and lethargy may have a delayed onset.


Although this artificial sweetener may be helpful to our waistline, it is toxic to dogs and cats. It can cause an acute, life-threatening low blood sugar level. Large ingestion can result in acute liver failure.


Most pet owners know that chocolate is toxic. Theobromine in chocolate can cause vomiting, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and death. During this holiday season, it is important to know that the baker’s chocolate is the most toxic. The less sweet and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.

Fat Trimmings and Bones:

Not only can the bones from the turkey or other meat scraps cause intestinal obstructions or lacerations, but the fatty meal can also lead to pancreatitis (a severe inflammation of the pancreas), causing vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, which can be life-threatening.

If you are like me and would like to treat your dog or cat to a Thanksgiving meal, choose safe food samplings in moderation. You could also choose to make them their own Thanksgiving treats with some recipes outlined at

Have a safe and thankful Thanksgiving, and don’t forget those pooches and whiskers who don’t have a family of their own. Visit, support, and/or donate to your local animal rescue like the Beaufort County Animal Shelter.

By Dr. Shelley Horn