Q: I have a holiday party coming up. What types of foods do I need to make sure I keep away from my pets?

Everyone talks about chocolate but there are some other foods that every pet owner needs to look out for and are potentially dangerous.

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in holiday cookies and other desserts. Unfortunately they can cause weakness, vomiting, tremoring and elevated body temperature. Dogs can show signs from macadamia nut toxicity for 12 to 48 hours after ingestion. The exact cause of the toxicity is unknown. Most other nuts are safe for dogs, but macadamia nuts should be avoided.

Grapes and raisins are also important foods to keep away from pets. Ingestion of both grapes and raisins can result in kidney failure. The amount of grapes and raisins that result in kidney failure is unknown therefore it is important that dogs and cats avoid them all together.

Onions and garlic are common cooking ingredients during the holiday season. Eating these substances can cause irritation of the stomach and intestines resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. More seriously, both onions and garlic can damage the red blood cells. Red blood cells are important for carrying oxygen to all the cells of the body, so when they are damaged animals will feel weak and tired. Cats are more likely to be affected by onions and garlic, but dogs can show signs if they eat a large amount.
Alcoholic beverages and foods that contain alcohol obviously should be kept away from animals. They can cause vomiting and diarrhea. More seriously they can result in central nervous system depression, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing, tremoring, coma and death.

Xylitol is a commonly used artificial sweetener. It may be in foods such as gum, candy or baked goods. Xylitol leads to insulin release which results in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Hypoglycemia occurs within 2-3 hours after ingestion of a product containing xylitol. Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, uncoordinated walking, vocalization, and seizures. Xylitol ingestion not only causes hypoglycemia but it can also result liver failure.

If your pet eats any of these foods please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. There is a charge for this call. If you need to seek immediate medical attention, we are available to help you 24/7. We can also call the Animal Poison Control number for you, should you choose to come in immediately. For more safety tips or a link to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centerís website, visit the pet care tips section on our website - www.vescone.com/owners/pet_tips.html.