Festive food your pets can eat, too!

The dos and don’ts on feeding your dog or cat fall and holiday foods

Dog by table

Big family meals are a staple of the holiday season. If you’re lucky, you just get to show up and enjoy the food — but if you’re like many, you’ve already drafted your first grocery list and planned your big meal. 

Most of us aren’t too shy about second helpings, but how much of it is safe for your furry family members?

A bite or two of turkey is safe for pets, but avoid the skin and spices

Animal Humane Society Chief Veterinarian Dr. Graham Brayshaw says when it comes to turkey, a bite or two is safe for cats and dogs — just be sure it’s free of fatty turkey skins and seasoning.

Too much of the high-fat content in turkey skin can cause pancreatitis, which is caused when the pancreas overworks to produce enzymes that break down food.

When giving animals a bite of your bird, make sure there’s no seasoning on it as well. Spices can wreak havoc on canine and feline stomachs!

Don't ever feed your pet cooked turkey bones

Never give your pet cooked turkey bones

Cooked bones are dangerous. They can splinter, leading to choking and possible obstructions in gastrointestinal tracts. 

Make sure the trash is behind a closed door or cabinet, and keep careful watch of your pet around the dinner table.

Pro tip

If your dog has an object stuck in their windpipe and they're struggling to breath, try the doggy Heimlich maneuver! Put your arms around your dog’s waist. Make a fist with one hand and place your fist, thumb side up, on the dog's abdomen just below his ribs.

Wrap your other hand around that first, and give a hard, fast jerk or squeeze upward toward the dog's backbone. Apply enough force to move the dog's whole body. If the object does not dislodge, take your dog to the nearest emergency vet immediately.

Other holiday foods to avoid giving your pet

  • Desserts: Chocolate is unsafe for dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the worse it is. You should also avoid pumpkin pie and be especially mindful of xylitol, an artificial sweetener sometimes used in baking.
  • Grapes and raisins: Can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and kidney damage
  • Nuts: Can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis
  • Salty snacks: Causes excessive thirst and sodium poisoning
  • Garlic, onions, and chives: Irritates stomachs in small amounts, toxic in large amounts

Watch for symptoms and be prepared to act

Dogs, rather than cats, tend to have more issues during the festive season since they have more of a tendency to gorge on food, but cats can eat holiday plants, which can be poisonous.

With both species, vomiting and diarrhea are early signs of trouble, but lethargy or pain means you may want to consider an emergency trip to your nearby clinic.

Include them in the festivities with their own special treat

If you don’t want your pet feeling left out, the best way to include them is to get them a special treat of their own, according to Brayshaw. You can pick up a turkey-based treat at your local pet store.

Or jump to dessert and give them either raw pumpkin or make your dog a tasty pumpkin treat. Sweet potatoes are also a great option cooked or plain without seasonings or toppings.

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Our pets are important members of the family  so of course, they should be included in holiday festivities as well. Just make sure you do it in a safe, fun way so everyone can enjoy spending quality time together. 

Holiday anxiety isn't just a people thing

We may have learned healthy ways to cope with holiday stress, but your pet may need your help in managing their anxiety. Help your anxious pet(s) feel at ease during big gatherings.

And remember, pets don’t naturally understand how to behave amid the many distractions of the holidays, so they need our help. Rather than assuming they would never eat off of the counter or jump up on grandma, set them up for success by managing their environment

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