Autumn is here, and the feeling of fall is in the air. Pumpkin spice is on every menu, the air is cool, the leaves are turning extraordinary colors, and Thanksgiving planning has begun! I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays. And as much as we all love the amazing Thanksgiving food and festivities, so do our pets. However, the festive dishes we love so much can be dangerous foods for dogs.
My dog Dory sits patiently in the kitchen all day while I prepare Thanksgiving dinner for our family, waiting for me to drop a piece of turkey or offer some mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, as a small animal veterinarian, this is the time of year when I see many emergencies from pets eating human food that can cause illness. To keep your pup safe and healthy during your Thanksgiving dinner, check out our list of typical autumn and Thanksgiving foods that are toxic for our pets, what clinical signs that you may see, and what you need to do if your dog eats these foods.
Be sure to protect your pet from these dangerous foods for dogs at Thanksgiving.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
Who knew, right? These food items are commonly used in preparing Thanksgiving dinner, in addition to dishes throughout the rest of the year, but they can spark dangerous reactions in your pets. Cats are actually more susceptible to the toxic effects of onions, garlic and chives; however, dogs are also at risk. The toxicity causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by the bursting of red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body. Ingestion can also cause less critical side effects such as gastrointestinal irritation. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic evaluation of red blood cells.
Grapes and Raisins
Some fruits, like grapes and raisins, are more common for consumption during autumn months. Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure in canines, making them another dangerous food for dogs.
Many people bake cookies and desserts with macadamia nuts. When ingested by dogs, however, they can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12-48 hours.
Nuts, including almonds, pecans and walnuts, can also be dangerous foods for dogs. They contain high amounts of oils and fats, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis in pets.
Milk and Dairy
Milk and cream are common ingredients in Thanksgiving foods. But be cautious with dairy; despite what many people believe, pets do not digest dairy products well. Dogs and cats do not have significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Milk and other dairy-based products cause your pet to suffer from diarrhea or other stomach upset.
Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Pretzels and potato chips are in abundance during football season—and they're also dangerous for dogs. The large amounts of salt the contain can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium-ion poisoning in pets. Salt toxicity clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.
This seems obvious, right? Well, you would be surprised how many times I have seen alcohol intoxication on emergency. Most cases are accidents. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. If your pet has ingested alcohol, see or contact your veterinarian immediately.
Dessert is a big part of the Thanksgiving meal, especially if you have children, and that sometimes means chocolate at the table. Chocolate contains two ingredients that are toxic in large quantities: theobromine and caffeine. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine; therefore, the amount and the type of chocolate your pet eats plays a role in its toxic effects. Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of theobromine, while baking chocolate contains the highest. Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity include diarrhea or vomiting from the high fat content in the chocolate, restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, tremors, increased drinking and urination, excessive panting, irritability, increased heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm.
Raw or Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Pets can choke on bones, or sustain injury if a bone splinter becomes lodged in or punctures their digestive tract. That makes all of the above dangerous foods for dogs. To help your dog satisfy their craving for bones, try 100% natural USA Bones & Chews marrow bones instead—they're produced to be safe for dogs to chew.
I have seen this emergency several times. When pets digest raw yeast dough, the dough can expand and rise in the GI tract, causing gas to accumulate. This can be painful and cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life-threatening emergency. In addition, the yeast produces ethanol as a by-product, and a dog ingesting raw dough may become drunk, with all the same risks as described in the section on alcohol above.
I hope this helps all pet parents out there be more aware of all the possible common autumn foods that can be dangerous for your pets. If you suspect your dog has eaten a dangerous food, or notice signs of poisoning like the ones described above, see or contact your vet. You can also call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661), both of which operate 24 hours a day.
Despite the many dangerous foods for dogs that pose risks at Thanksgiving, there is no need for your pup to feel left out. Let them indulge on Thanksgiving! I tell all my pet parents to have Thanksgiving treats and dog food easily accessible during the holiday festivities, and to spoil their pets rotten. I absolutely love The Honest Kitchen’s turkey dog food topper, Plato EOS turkey with cranberry dog treats, and Tylee's Turkey recipe human-grade dog food.
My goal is to always keep our pets safe and healthy. As much as I love seeing them walk through my animal hospital doors, I prefer to help avoid sick trips to the veterinarian—especially during Thanksgiving, when you should be spending time being grateful with your closest friends, family, and of course, your pets.