Few things are more enjoyable to football fans than gathering with friends and family to watch the Sunday big game while sharing pizza, chicken wings, or a super bowl of chips and salsa. And with J Lo and Shakira slated to perform at this year’s halftime show, the 2020 game of games promises to be a real party. Yet many foods and drinks that are synonymous with the big game could spell trouble for pets. And nothing will spoil halftime more than having to rush a pet to the emergency room. 

To help pet owners avoid this when planning their football party menu, here are three common big game party foods that are dangerous to petsand we encourage you to share this information with your clients on social: 


Chicken Wings 

While cats are often attracted by the smell of chicken, few cats are inclined to snatch a chicken wing from an unguarded plate and wolf it down when people are distracted by the big game. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more tempted to steal unguarded food, and chicken wing bones can lodge in a dog’s throat, stomach, or intestine to cause serious damage and complications.  

Many buffalo wing recipes and commercial hot sauces contain garlic powder, and garlic (whether raw, fried, dehydrated, or powdered) presents a big risk to pets because it contains a substance called thiosulphate. Also found in onions, chives, and leeks, thiosulphate causes a form of anemia in dogs and cats due to an abnormal breakdown of red blood cells, though signs and symptoms may not appear right away. And just a little garlic can be dangerous to pets. So, if you’re planning on serving chicken wings at your big game party, make sure to set them someplace where pets cannot reach them. 


Ready-Made Desserts

If you’re purchasing cakes, cookies, or any ready-made treats for your big game party, foods sweetened with xylitol present a deadly risk for dogs. As a sugar substitute widely found in diet baked goods, gum, candies and other foods, xylitol may be safe for human consumption, but it can be lethal for dogs. Xylitol is rapidly absorbed into a dog’s bloodstream and can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), liver failure, seizures, and even death in dogs. 

Signs of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking or standing, loss of energy, and tremors. To avoid the risks, carefully read the ingredients list of any prepared treat before you bring it home, and if it contains xylitol, spike that treat back onto the shelves. Even better, prepare your own big game treatsThat way, whether the Kansas City Chiefs or San Francisco 49ers win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, you can assure your dog a 100% win in protection against xylitol. 

If you’ve already purchased your big game treats and they contain xylitol, either throw them out (making sure to secure the trash against pilfering by inquisitive dogs) or set the treats someplace where dogs can’t reach them. And make sure that party guests know not to leave the treats lying around where dogs can scoop them. 



Sauces used on many delivery and grocery store pizzas often contain garlic and/or onions in raw, dehydrated or powdered form. And as previously mentioned under chicken wings, garlic and onions (as well as chives and leeks) can cause a form of anemia in dogs and cats due to a substance called thiosulphate. 

There are several workarounds. You can purchase a ready-made pizza shell (without the dough being infused with garlic and/or onions, naturally) and make your own oven-ready game day pizza using jarred sauce that contains no garlic or onions, or you can make pizza sauce from scratch to completely control the ingredients. For complete assurance that pizza dough contains no garlic and/or onions, you can always purchase plain unbaked pizza dough and jazz it up with things like olive oil and oregano, but you also must exercise caution. 

Pizza dough is bread dough. When ingested by dogs, unbaked bread dough results in the production of ethanol from the fermentation of sugars by certain species of yeast. And the symptoms and risks of eating unbaked bread dough include vomiting, incontinence, respiratory distress, seizures and heart attack as well as distended, painful abdomen (from gases produced by fermentation) and gastric obstruction with the potential for gastric dilation (twisted stomach). 

While pizza, chicken wings, and ready-made desserts represent three top party foods for the big game that are dangerous for pets, they’re certainly not the only dangerous foodsFor others (plus additional info about the foods already mentioned), read the LifeLearn blog 7 Holiday Foods NOT to Feed Pets. 


Oftentimes, despite all safety precautions, foods hit the table with ingredients that are dangerous to pets, and one of the problems lies with food manufacturers. While xylitol, for example, is the name of a sugar substitute that you now know to avoid, food manufacturers also market xylitol under a variety of different namesincluding birch sugar, which sounds safe and natural. Yet the name only reflects how manufacturers extract raw material from birch trees to produce xylitol. 

Because of such practices in food marketing, things happen. Pets can get sick, and a bad situation can become more stressful if you can’t reach your veterinarian after hours with important and even critical pet health concerns, leaving you with few options between the unreliability of Dr. Google and costly inconvenience of visiting the emergency animal hospital. 

LifeLearn PetNurse fills this gap for pet ownersWorking as an extension of veterinary practices, PetNurse provides veterinary clients with instant after-hours triage support to give pet owners safe, appropriate, and timely assessments of their pets’ health. Veterinary Nurses at PetNurse’s call center use trusted Clinical Protocols to evaluate the severity of the situation, determine urgency, and specify clear next steps. 

All calls are handled by RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) Registered Veterinary Nurses. All nurses have a minimum of three years practical experience and many hold advanced qualifications. All nurses receive extensive and ongoing training on the use of Clinical Protocols, which are used to provide high-quality and consistent triage decisions. In over 15 years of operation, LifeLearn’s PetNurse partner, VetsDirect, has successfully conducted over 1 million consultations.  


For this kind of after-hours assurance for your pet’s well-being (on the day of the big game and every day), email or call your veterinarian today to ask if they have PetNurse. 

For veterinary practices who want to provide PetNurse to their valued clients, visit LifeLearn’s PetNurse page for more information, to book a demo, or download the PetNurse product sheet.