Holiday Foods Harmful to Pets

Holiday foods that can harm your pet

The holiday season is now upon us, and we look forward to celebrating alongside our furry family members every year. Part and parcel of these celebrations is the feast, which our pets may be expecting to partake in too! As pet guardians, take care and be aware of where unknown dangers lurk. Even though our dogs and cats have evolved alongside us for thousands of years, there are many human foods that can harm them. Here are the top 12 holiday foods that can harm your pet:


Cats and dogs should not eat any amount of chocolate or cocoa. Caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can damage your pet's digestive and nervous system.


Alcohol affects pets much more than people, so what we might think is a harmless amount, can cause severe damage to both cats and dogs.

Coffee and caffeine

Coffee contains two very dangerous stimulants for pets: caffeine, and theobromine. These substances are also found in chocolate. Both, even in small doses, can be dangerous for your cat or dog. Symptoms include hyperactivity, vomiting, elevated heart rate and tremors. Severe symptoms include seizures, collapse, and even death.

Dairy products

Just as with many humans, dogs and cats produce less of the enzyme needed to digest lactose (lactase) as they age, and ingesting milk products does not sit well with their stomach. This can manifest as diarrhea and/or vomiting, so it is safest not to share any dairy-containing items with them. This includes milk, ice-cream, cheese, and yogurt. Small amounts may be fine, but it will depend on the individual.

Grapes and raisins

Although the exact substance in grapes and raisins that causes toxicity is unknown, we do know they can cause acute kidney failure in animals, even if peeled or seedless, so please take care to avoid them with your cat or dog.


While it is common to think that bones are a special treat for dogs, bones present particular hazards in the form of obstruction in the stomach, damage to the stomach lining if sharp pieces are ingested, and fractured teeth. As a general rule, if you are offering your pet any type of chewing treat or toy, try the “pinch test”: if you can't make an indentation in the treat with your fingernail, then it is too hard for your pet. One final note: never leave your pets unsupervised with chewing treats. A foreign body obstruction can happen in the blink of an eye.

Macadamia nuts

These nuts are dangerous for dogs, causing vomiting, irregular heartbeat, weakness, depression, overheating and tremors. Your dog may show these symptoms within 12 hours of eating the nuts.


Almonds are not technically toxic to dogs, but they can be tough on their digestive systems. They may develop an upset stomach and abdominal pain, and in worst cases, kidney stones. Additionally, there is a risk of choking in small breed dogs.

Sugar and sweets

Sugar contributes to canine obesity and the onset of diabetes in dogs. Pure sugar feeds gut bacteria and can in turn lead to bloating and diarrhea. Take special care with chocolate-covered raisins (see above), and sugar-free candies that include xylitol. This artificial sweetener is harmless for humans and deadly for dogs and cats.

Yeast and dough

Yeast and fermented dough are not well digested by dogs and cats. Dough expands in the stomach and causes indigestion and obstruction. Fermentation can lead to bloating and alcohol in the digestive system, and result in severe consequences.


Salt, depending on the amount ingested, can be potentially poisonous for cats and dogs. Keep them away from your pets. This includes salt dough, de-icing salt, table salt, and salty solutions.

Onions, Leeks & Garlic

Any species within the Allium family, including onions, leeks, and garlic, contain N-propyl disulfide. This substance is an oxidant that breaks down the hemoglobin in your pet's red blood cells, leading to severe anemia. In cats, more than 1 gram per 5 pounds of body weight is toxic. In dogs, 1/4 cup of onions can make a 20-pound dog sick. Toxicity does not change if they are cooked, fresh or dried.

For a full list of dangerous foods, please visit:

If your dog or cat shows signs of vomiting or diarrhea, discomfort, or increased thirst for water, these may be signs that they have eaten something toxic. If you are worried, please contact us or your local emergency clinic at 416-966-1830, or click the button below to get an appointment.