By Cheryl Lock
With warmer spring weather and holidays like Mother’s Day right around the corner, one thing’s for certain—brunches will be held, whether at home or at a restaurant. And with fun, celebratory gatherings comes potential pet hazards. Keep in mind that there likely will be dangerous foods for dogs and cats that you should be aware of at your next brunch outing.
“The dangers are from a number of circumstances surrounding holiday or celebratory gatherings,” says Jennifer Hennessey Bremseth, DVM, CVJ, owner of Animal ER of Northwest Houston in Texas. “New guests tend to want to love by sharing food when they see those begging pets, and new guests and gatherings often mean that pet owners are distracted from tending to things, like whether drinks and items are up and away from a pet’s reach, as they are focused on serving and entertaining.”
A good pet safety tip is to keep pets away from food areas at home by using dog gates or coated-wire crates. “This way, they can see the activity and be acknowledged as one of the family,” says Dr. Hennessey Bremseth. “But they’re safely restricted.”
Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer with the American Kennel Club, also reminds pet parents to keep their pets on their usual diets during any gatherings or celebrations. “Care should also be taken when leaving plates of food, such as cookies containing raisins or chocolate or alcoholic beverages, unattended on a coffee table or other easy-access areas,” he adds.
Make sure your brunch gatherings go off without a hitch by keeping some of these dangerous foods for dogs and cats safely out of your pet’s reach.
Just because your food scraps and wrappings have been thrown in the trash doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe from your pet. “The wrappers of food, like the containers that contained meat, tend to draw pets to the trash, and they are often a cause of severe GI issues,” says Dr. Hennessey Bremseth. Table scraps that you throw away, like ham, are high in fats and can cause gastroenteritis and pancreatitis, Dr. Klein adds.
Once you’ve disposed of your food containers, close up the trash bags and remove them from your pet’s reach. “Garbage cans and bags should be securely closed to prevent dogs from getting into bones, corn cobs, etc.,” says Dr. Klein.
Many meals include bread, and while cooked bread may not pose a serious threat, raw dough and yeast can be very hazardous to your pets. “When ingested, these continue to rise and bloat the patient, and yeast can actually ferment inside the pet, creating dangerous gas and alcohols,” says Dr. Hennessey Bremseth. Ensure that your pets are kept outside or in a separate room if making bread will be part of your pre-party prep.
Onions and dogs and cats do not mix. Any items that contain onion—including baked goods—can be toxic to your pet. Onion causes changes in blood cells that makes the body remove them, and this creates severely low blood counts or anemia, Dr. Hennessey Bremseth says. It’s best to keep all onion products—including raw onions themselves—up and out of reach from your pets. That means scoping out the floor or ground for pieces of onion that might have fallen off the table, whether you are brunching at home or at a pet-friendly restaurant. If you’re preparing food at home, keep pets away from the kitchen as you work.
Some common flowers that often come in bouquets are harmful to animals. “Lily ingestion is deadly for cats, as their kidneys are damaged by the flower, and some lilies can lead to heart problems if a dog ingests them,” says Dr. Hennessey Bremseth. Check any bouquets that your pet might be able to get ahold of to ensure they don’t contain flowers that are poisonous for dogs or flowers that are harmful to cats, and keep them out of your yard as well.
These tasty nuts are often served as snacks or in desserts, but they are toxic to dogs, and can result in vomiting and muscle weakness and tremors if ingested, says Dr. Hennessey Bremseth. To ensure pet safety, try to avoid cooking with macadamia nuts when at home, or ordering foods that contain them when you’re out with your dog.
Are grapes toxic to dogs and cats? And what about raisins? The answer is a strong yes—these are two dangerous foods for dogs and cats. Both species appear to be susceptible to kidney damage if they ingest grapes or raisins, but the problem is much more common in dogs since most cats avoid eating fruit. Always keep boxes of raisins in closed pantries or cabinets, and keep grapes in the fridge. Remove all table scraps and garbage that contain them immediately. If you go out for brunch with your furry sidekick, make sure they don’t get ahold of any stray grapes.
This artificial sweetener is often used in drinks, desserts, and many other foods and household products, but it’s toxic to pets and can cause a severe drop in blood sugar, says Dr. Hennessey Bremseth. “This leads to weakness, collapse and seizures,” she adds. “And liver injury is possible, too.”
Keep in mind that not all hazards are in plain sight on your table. “Curious pets often love to explore new items brought into a home, including bags, purses and coat pockets that belong to visitors,” says Dr. Klein. “Too often these contain plastic bags filled with items that contain unmarked and unknown amounts of dangerous items for cats and dogs to consume.” Your pets might find a number of dangerous things, like over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs or sugar-free gum (containing Xylitol), says Dr. Klein. All of these items can be toxic, or even deadly, to cats and dogs, so it’s best to keep bags and purses closed and coats out of your pet’s reach.
One potential pet safety risk is decorations. “Ribbons, thread and strings from gifts can be dangerous to both cats and dogs if ingested,” says Dr. Klein. “But cats are especially attracted to linear material, which can cause life-threatening obstructions often requiring surgery to remove.” Be sure to remove all gift wrapping immediately, and keep decorations to those that won’t be harmful (or interesting) to your pet.