Holiday time is a perfect time for sharing dinners and treats, but sharing holiday food with our pets can be hazardous to their health. It’s tough to resist those puppy dog eyes at the dinner table, but keeping certain foods out of our pet’s reach is important to avoid a pet emergency.

Since we know it’s hard to leave our furry friends completely out of the holiday fun, we’ll also give you our best ideas for some pet-friendly treats that you can share with confidence.

Keep it Healthy

First, the good news. Here are a few healthy holiday foods for pets:

  • A small piece of well-cooked, deboned lean turkey, duck, or ham (no skin)
  • A dollop of unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • Fresh, unseasoned vegetables such as green beans or carrots

In limited quantities, these foods can be just fine. However, be aware that table scraps, fatty foods in general (think gravy!), and any abrupt change in diet (trash diving, anyone?) can trigger  pancreatitis, which is one of the most common and serious problems that our team sees during the holidays.

An Unfortunate but Common Occurrence

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for insulin production and digestive enzymes. Signs of pancreatitis include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. If your pet is experiencing these symptoms, a trip to our hospital is definitely in order.

Caught early, pancreatitis can often be treated with supportive care, such as controlling the nausea and vomiting, preventing dehydration and imbalances in the blood, and feeding a low-fat, nutritious diet. Unfortunately, pets exhibiting severe signs may need hospitalization and critical care in order to recover.

Holiday Foods for Pets to Avoid

In addition to table scraps and fatty parts of the holiday bird (not to mention getting into the garbage can), here are some other common holiday foods to avoid:

Chocolate — Many of us know that chocolate is toxic for pets. The two ingredients that cause problems are caffeine and a chemical called theobromine. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, the riskier it is for pets. Chocolate toxicity can cause internal bleeding, liver failure, and death.

Bones — Bones splinter easily and can perforate a dog or cat’s mouth, throat, or internal organs. Bigger bones can cause intestinal blockages, which could result in emergency surgery.

Alcohol — Beer, wine, and liquor are especially problematic in cats and small dogs, and it can be damaging to your pet’s liver and brain.

Garlic, onions, chives — Especially problematic for cats, these aromatics and herbs in any form – raw, cooked, or powdered – can cause damage to red blood cells and possibly anemia.

Grapes and raisins — Even small amounts can cause your pet to get sick; larger amounts can cause kidney failure.

Sugar-free candies and baked goods — The artificial sweetener Xylitol is an ingredient used in sugar free treats; ingesting it can be deadly for pets. It also causes a severe decrease in blood sugar levels. Disorientation can occur, and left untreated, liver failure can result.

Unbaked bread dough — Even small amounts of bread dough made with live yeast can expand in your pet’s stomach and cause a tummy ache. Larger amounts may expand so much that breathing is impacted.

Used food wrappers and tin foil — Although of course not a food, many holiday treats have wrappers and foil that can smell yummy and therefore be intriguing to our pets. If ingested, these could cause intestinal blockages or perforation, so keep any packaging and wrappers away from pets, just in case.

Holiday Pet Food Wrap Up

It feels good to express our love for our pets by giving them treats, but it might not be the best for them. Instead, think of other ways to show your love, such as an extra walk, playtime, or a good brushing. Holiday time will be much more enjoyable without an emergency visit to the veterinarian. If you have any questions or concerns or if your pet has ingested one of these holiday foods to avoid, feel free to contact us for assistance.