Ah, the Christmas fruitcake! Whether you use it as a doorstop or an actual dessert, be careful around your pets with this staple of some Christmas festivities. If the alcohol in these dense cakes doesn’t cause a problem for your ‘furkids’, the raisins, currants, and yeast they often contain likely will.
Raisins and currants
Most fruitcake recipes call for dried fruits, and this typically includes raisins and/or currants. As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post (click here), raisins, currants, and grapes can be highly toxic to your dog’s kidneys. Not all dog’s are affected by the toxin, and we don’t yet know what the exact toxin is. However, in those dogs that are affected, the result can be devastating, permanent, expensive, and potentially fatal acute renal (kidney) failure. The costs associated with treatment for acute kidney failure can vary widely and will mostly depend on how quickly they receive appropriate medical care and how well they respond to it. When it comes to treatment for acute kidney failure, from any cause, not all medical facilities and their capabilities are the same. Given the need for round the clock IV fluid diuresis, intensive monitoring, and the benefits of advanced treatment modalities (such as dialysis or renal replacement therapy), cases of acute kidney failure can truly only be effectively treated in facilities that are staffed around the clock and typically in hospitals staffed by doctors and technicians with advanced training. (Note that this is not the same type of kidney failure that develops slowly in cats and dogs as they age, that type of failure is called chronic kidney failure and it can often be effectively managed in your regular veterinarian’s office.)
Similar to the effects it can have in people, alcohol can cause several problems in your cats and dogs. And unlike the uncle that everyone is embarrassed by at the holidays, it doesn’t take much alcohol for your pets to get into trouble. While you won’t typically need to worry about your intoxicated cat or dog getting behind the wheel of a car (unless their name is ‘Toonces the Driving Cat’), you still have to worry about the results of their alcohol ingestion none the less. Alcohol can lead to both metabolic and neurologic problems in your pets that can result in vomiting, breathing problems, coma, and death. Given the high ‘proof’ of many Christmas fruitcakes, you’d be wise to take the steps necessary to keep them well out of your pet’s reach. And keep the wine glasses and cocktails off the low-lying tables too while you’re at it.
Some fruitcake recipes call for yeast to be used in the dough, making the uncooked dough a potential danger to your curious or mischievous pet. As I covered in the recent Thanksgiving Pet Safety post (click here), uncooked yeast can cause a very dangerous buildup of alcohol and gas within your pet’s stomach resulting in their death or a very stressful (though good smelling) trip to the veterinarian.
Whether you call it ‘fruitcake’, ‘stollen’, ‘panettone’, or ‘birnenbrot’, these laden with fruit cakes can pose a variety of dangers to any pet that might venture to try them. From kidney failure to a gas distended stomach leading to cardiovascular collapse and shock, the hazard (and cost) potential is high.
If your pet does get into the holiday fruitcake, cooked or uncooked, contact a veterinarian or pet-specific poison control hotline (click here for links) immediately for advice. Especially in the case of raisin and currant or raw yeast ingestion, time is of the essence. Do not attempt to induce vomiting without first speaking with a veterinarian. If your pet is staggering, attempting to vomit without success, or has collapsed, bring them for immediate veterinary evaluation.
May all of your holiday preparations go smoothly and may all of your holiday fruitcakes be as tasty as the Dresden Stollen! (It’s best lightly toasted, yummy.) As always…
Be aware, be prepared, be preventive!™
Here’s a recap of The 12 Pet Hazards of Christmas so far…
Day 1: Tinsel
Jason Nicholas, BVetMed(Hons)
The Preventive Vet™
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