The Pouch: Holiday Foods that are Toxic for Your Pet

Michael Pettigrew / Adobe Stock

Michael Pettigrew / Adobe Stock

Eunjae Jeon, The Pouch

As the holidays approach and homes are suffused with the scent of spices and baked goods, curious pets sometimes spot toxic foods in the kitchen and accidentally ingest them. Most pet owners know about run-of-the-mill harmful foods like grapes or chocolate, but here is a list of some fall foods that you should be wary of (plus a few that can be beneficial to your pet).


Nutmeg: Nutmeg is an earthy, sweet spice used in many fall dishes. It contains myristicin, which can cause fatal hallucinations and seizures in dogs and cats—and even humans, when consumed in large amounts. Quantities as little as a few grams may be dangerous to pets. According to the American Kennel Club, symptoms for dogs include dry mouth, disorientation, vomiting, and tremors. Cats have similar symptoms.

Uncooked Yeast: Rolls and baked goods are commonplace around the holiday season, but uncooked yeast can pose a serious health risk for your pets. If your pet has consumed yeast—whether in granules or dough form—it is a medical emergency. Yeast can cause “bloating” (or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus), a condition where the stomach expands to a point where blood flow is blocked from other essential organs. It can cause the stomach to rupture, affect the lungs, and stop the heart. As the yeast ferments, it also produces ethanol, which can cause alcohol poisoning. Both alcohol poisoning and GDV are serious, potentially fatal conditions.

Allspice and Cloves: Allspice and cloves are common ingredients in pumpkin pie, autumnal lattes, and mulled wine. They both contain eugenols, which are toxic to both cats and dogs in large amounts. Both allspice and cloves can induce liver problems and may cause death. Clove oil is particularly dangerous.

Tread Carefully with Cinnamon: For dogs and cats, a small amount of cinnamon is not fatal, depending on the dosage and form (but it can cause some unpleasant symptoms). Cinnamon doesn’t have any proven health benefits for pets. Make sure to call your veterinarian if your cat or dog ingests cinnamon oil, though, as its high concentration can be harmful for pets.


Pumpkin: For both cats and dogs, canned, powdered, or fresh pumpkin can be a healthy snack and is oftentimes recommended to alleviate digestive issues. Always check the label in canned pumpkin or pumpkin powder—if it contains added salt, sugar, or spices, you may want to save the pumpkin for your pie instead. Never give your pet pumpkin with added xylitol.

Ginger: Ginger is considered nontoxic for pets and can even have health benefits; however, make sure to consult your veterinarian before incorporating any type of ginger in your pets’ diet—too much can upset their stomachs.

The next time you’re baking, make sure to keep one eye on your pet and be mindful of the human food you give them—it just might save you and your pet a stressful trip to the veterinarian.