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National Pet Hospital Sees 372% Increase in Chocolate-Related ER Visits Every Christmas Eve

Laura Fourniotis via holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year, not only for malls and department stores but also for veterinary emergency hospitals around the country. In fact, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital, which has more than 100 hospitals in 29 U.S. states, sees an approximate 372% increase in chocolate-related emergency visits every Christmas Eve.  

IMG_1500Peyton Cleary, Hilton Head Island, March 2021

“It is easy for unattended pets to get into some dangerous holiday treats as people get busy spending time with family and friends,” said Lindsey E. Bullen, DVM, Diplomate ACVN, Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist, BluePearl in Cary, NC. “While we want our pets to enjoy the holidays with us, we must be cautious when giving our furry companions certain foods. Candies, cookies, or pies containing grapes, coffee, chocolate, nuts, walnuts, or xylitol, a common sugar substitute used in hundreds of sugar-free candies and pastries, can be particularly dangerous if ingested by pets.” 

Keep pets safe and avoid an unexpected trip to the veterinary emergency room this Christmas by following these expert tips. 

“Paws off” foods  

  • Garlic and onion. 
  • Bones, or fatty meats (or meat scraps). Even in small doses, these foods can cause a life-threatening condition in pets called pancreatitis. 
  • Onions 
  • Grapes 
  • Chocolate 
  • Coffee 
  • Nuts - Keep almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia, and pecans, and foods containing these nuts out of pets’ reach. 
  • Yeast dough - Yeast in dough will continue to rise once ingested, distending their stomach, and releasing toxic levels of ethanol into their bloodstream. The real danger is from the resulting alcohol toxicosis which causes depressed central nervous system, weakness, an unsteady, drunken gait, hypothermia, seizures, and coma. 
  • Food cooked with nutmeg 
  • Xylitol – or foods or candies with xylitol as an ingredient 

Safe foods 

  • Turkey meat.  
  • Salmon. No seasoning, bones, and non-smoked.  
  • Lamb meat. No bones or fat.  
  • Scrambled egg(s)  
  • Green beans  
  • Brussel sprouts  
  • Parsnips  
  • Carrots  
  • Peas  
  • Potatoes  
  • Sweet potatoes  
  • Plain, low-fat yogurt (Check the ingredient list to make sure xylitol is not listed.)  

“Before feeding your pet any human foods, remember to always check with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist. Every pet is different so what may be okay for one may not be okay for another,” said Dr. Lindsey Bullen. “As a general rule, and to reduce any risk of illness, avoid giving pets 'Santa’s' cookies or candy canes, which can contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is highly toxic to dogs. It is also important to keep pets with chronic illnesses or diseases on their prescribed diet, as any deviation could result in sickness and a trip to the ER.” 

Knowing potential harmful foods for your pet will not only keep them safe, but it will also help avoid them from gaining any extra holiday pounds. If you want your pet to join safely in the food fun this holiday, you can also try making homemade treats.