Cute dog and cat asking for food

Cute white dog Maltese and cat sitting together on one a chair at the table and begging for food like sausage which is on a plate.

As we enter into the holiday season, we at the Fort Belvoir Veterinary Center want to make sure you and your furry family members are safe through the season. With the guidance from a recent article by the American Veterinary Medical Association, here are a few recommendations to keep veterinary emergency visits downs and ensure travel plans are successfully met during the holidays.

Plan for emergencies: Have the name, location and phone number for the nearest emergency veterinary clinic, as emergency events typically happen after normal business hours. The ASPCA also has a Poison Control Hotline, 1-888-426-4435, for pet owners who cannot immediately make it to a veterinarian.

Food hazards: While it may be tempting to share food or treats with our pets, there are a few usual suspects that can spoil the holiday spirit for us and our pets.

Chocolate: Chocolate’s chemical makeup is actually quite toxic to dogs. Toxicities vary with the type of chocolate and the amount ingested. Baking chocolate and cocoa powder are the most toxic forms. However, any type of chocolate is potentially deadly, especially to smaller dogs and cats. So, keep all chocolate off limits to pets.

Other sweets: Xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in baked goods, chewing gum and other products is extremely toxic and causes liver failure, hypoglycemia and death in dogs.

Turkey, turkey skin, ham, gravy and meat fat: Even in small amounts, these can cause pancreatitis, which can be life threatening and require a long hospitalization.

Grapes and raisins: Often found in salads or desserts, these can cause acute kidney failure and possibly death, if hospitalization with fluid diuresis is not administered immediately.

Yeast dough: When ingested raw, it can expand within the stomach which is extremely painful and dangerous and may require surgical correction. The yeast can also produce alcohol which, in large quantities, can cause death.

Bones from turkey, ham or prime rib: All of these can cause severe indigestion in dogs and cats, leading to vomiting or bowel obstruction, which requires surgical removal. Chewed bones cause bone shards, which can puncture the stomach or small intestines, leading to potentially fatal abdominal infection.

Side dishes, like stuffing and mashed potatoes: Added ingredients for these staples are often made with onions, scallions or garlic, which can be extremely toxic to dogs and lead to life-threatening anemia.

For more information about ways to keep your furry family member safe, visit or call the Fort Belvoir Veterinary Center (703) 805-4336

Editor’s note – This is the first in a two-part series about pet health. Read the Dec. XX Eagle, for the second part, about pets and holiday decorations.