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Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital

Common Holiday Toxins

With the Christmas season fast approaching, we wanted to remind everyone of common household toxins that pets can be exposed to over the holidays. 


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in an increasing number of products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It causes blood sugar to become dangerously low (hypoglycemia) which can lead to vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination and seizures. Liver damage and eventually liver failure can be seen within a few days. 

Chocolate, Coffee and caffeine

Cacao seeds contain substances called methylxanthines which can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in dogs and cats. Dark chocolate, Baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder are more dangerous than milk chocolate and white chocolate.


The toxic substance within grapes and raisins (Vitis spp.) is not definitively known but has been linked to development of acute kidney failure in dogs and cats. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs and cats.


While cooked bread is relatively safe for pets, ingestion of Yeast dough is dangerous for pets.  The stomach acts as an oven causing the dough to rise and expand, causing bloating and pain.  This can predispose to twisting of the stomach, a life threatening condition called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus.  The yeast can also produce alcohol as a by-product.

Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol.

Garlic and Onions

Compounds in these food can cause vomiting and breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia) in dogs and cats.  Please avoid feeding pets any food spiced with or containing garlic or onions.

Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts, and other nuts like Walnuts contain high levels of fat that can  lead to development of pancreatitis in dogs and cats.  Also, macadamias can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Poinsettia Plants

More commonly a toxin in cats who enjoy munching on Christmas plant arrangements.  Ingestion of poinsettias causes oral irritation, drooling and vomiting.  Typically these signs resolve on their own but best to keep holiday plants out of pets’ reach.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any type of toxin please call us (250)758-3985 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.


Information obtained for this article from

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