The holiday season is a time of joy, family gatherings, and indulgent feasting for many of us. As we savor the turkey, potatoes, pies, and other delicious dishes that define this time of year, remember that our furry companions have different dietary needs.
Some of the common holiday treats that we love can be harmful to our pets. Let’s explore classic holiday foods so you know which ones to avoid and how to keep your pet happy and healthy during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holiday festivities.
Foods That Are Toxic To Pets During The Holidays
According to the Humane Society of the United States, foods that are considered harmful for pets that you may be using in your holiday meals include:
- Xylitol (a common artificial sweetener)
Also keep in mind that seeds, pits, leaves, and stems can be dangerous and potential choking hazards. These should be avoided and kept away from pets at all times.
What holiday foods are safe for pets in moderation?
According to the American Kennel Club, there are some holiday treats that are safe for dogs and cats. However, if you do want to give your pets something special, moderation is key.
Overall, it’s best to avoid leftovers and stick to your pet’s normal food and meat-based treats.
In the United States, turkey, ham, shrimp, and prime rib are some of the most quintessential holiday dishes and the focal point of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holiday meals. While these high-protein foods can be a delightful treat, they should be served with caution to pets.
The fatty content in most meats can lead to digestive issues and even pancreatitis in dogs and cats. Plus spices, rubs, and bones can also be dangerous and unsafe for pets. Small bones can easily splinter or get stuck in the digestive tract.
Plain, cooked meat without seasoning, bones, or skin is the best option for treats.
Vegetables & Fruits
Green beans, peas, corn, potatoes, and yams and other common holiday vegetables are considered safe for dogs and cats. Cranberries, apples, pumpkin, squash, and other fruits used in desserts and side dishes are also safe options.
These foods contain a variety of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can actually be beneficial for your pet. However, problems arise when pet parents give their furry friends too much of these foods or they’re mixed with extra fat, sugar, grains, and spices that are unsafe.
If you do give your pets these items, make sure they’re small bites and plain — no oils, seasonings, sugar, or other ingredients added. Another good rule of thumbs is to avoid cobs, seeds, stems, pits, and cores that pose a choking risk.
Peanut butter is also common in many candies and cookies during the holiday season. While peanut butter is considered safe for dogs, use caution.
Peanut butter itself is high in fat and many brands add artificial sweeteners or sugar, which can make your dog or cat sick. Mix it in a dessert with extra sugar, dairy, or chocolate, and it can cause even more major issues.
In general, small amounts of plain, unsweetened peanut butter or peanut butter-flavored dog treats are your safest option.
Other Pet-Safe Ingredients
Other common holiday ingredients that are safe in moderation include:
Again, make sure these don't include any extra additives, flavorings, spices, or sweeteners.
Keep Your Pets Happy & Healthy During the Holidays
Now that we’ve discussed what foods to avoid and things to watch out for, here are a few other general tips to keep in mind when it comes to your pet’s diet this holiday season.
Focus On Portion Control & Moderation
As noted, many common holiday foods are safe for pets in moderation. Small portions of pet-friendly foods as an occasional treat can be a fun way to include your furry family members in the festivities without compromising their health. However, overindulging can lead to upset stomachs and unwanted health issues.
Stick To Your Pet’s Normal Schedule
There’s no doubt that the holiday season can be hectic. However, pet’s thrive on routine. As much as possible, stick to your pet’s normal diet and schedule.
Give them normal meals at a designated time and make sure they’re getting walks or exercise at a similar time each day. With so many events, decorations, and noises around the holiday, now is not the time to be switching up food, diet, or schedule.
Consistency will help reduce anxiety, which can trigger digestive issues such as diarrhea or constipation. A consistent, well-balanced diet and routine will also help you spot any negative behavioral or health changes quicker.
Let Friends, Family, And Caregivers Know the Routine
Because the holidays are full of gatherings and festivities, you may have to find your pet extra care or have loved ones in and out of your home. If that’s the case, be sure and let these pet caregivers know about your dog or cat’s diet and routine.
Boarding facilities, dog walkers, and loved ones helping you care for your pet should know as much as possible to help you maintain consistency and spot potential health issues. They should have access to your pet’s normal food or kibble, as well as treats, medications, and dietary supplements your pet is on.
Familiar smells and flavors will help reduce your pet’s anxiety and prevent diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and other digestive issues as a result of stress or changes in diet.
Boost Gut Health With Maya Pet
During the holiday season, it's essential to pay attention to your pet's gut health. Any changes in diet, the temptation of tasty holiday treats, and more travel and gatherings, can upset your pet’s digestive system.
To promote good gut health, consider incorporating a pet supplement like Maya Pet into your daily routine. Maya Pet goes beyond a probiotic with a specialized formula and 10 Smart StrainsTM of good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, ensuring your pet's digestive system functions optimally — even during the busy holiday season.
Other Holiday Food FAQs
Let’s look at a few of the common questions pet owners have around this time of year.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Turkey Necks?
Ultimately, we advise against this. There’s a lot of back and forth on this among pet owners, vets, and nutritionists. Some say that feeding dogs raw turkey necks can be safe as part of a balanced diet, however, there is risk of things like salmonella and choking. The last thing you want is a pet emergency around the holidays, so it's best to steer clear of the risks.
Can Dogs Eat Pumpkin Bread Or Pumpkin Pie?
Pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie is not an ideal treat for dogs, primarily because it often contains sugar, spices, and other ingredients that may not be safe or healthy for them. The added sugars and spices can upset a dog's stomach or lead to other health issues.
If you want to give your dog pumpkin during Halloween, Thanksgiving, or any holiday, it's best to offer plain, cooked pumpkin without any additives or sweeteners. Plain, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is a safe option.
Should I Avoid Giving My Pet Table Scraps Altogether?
In general, yes. While it can be hard to ignore begging and whining, pet’s are better off with their typical routine and diet.
Feeding your pet from the table can teach them bad behaviors and lead to long-term weight gain and digestive issues. If you get in to this habit, it can be hard to track how much of certain things your pet is actually getting — especially around the holidays when guests may be sneaking them treats.
How Can I Make A Pet-Safe Holiday Meal For My Pet?
Focus on pet-safe ingredients and avoid spices and additives. You might also want to consider the size of the food, cutting it up into manageable pieces or pureeing it to minimize choking risks and make it easy for your pet to digest.
What Should I Do If My Pet Ingests Something Toxic During The Holidays?
If you suspect that your pet has ingested something toxic during the holidays, it's essential to take immediate action to protect their health. Here’s what you do:
- Stay calm. It's natural to panic, but remaining calm will help you think clearly and respond appropriately.
- Identify the toxin: Try to determine what your pet ingested. If it's a specific food or substance, gather any packaging or information you have about it. Vets and poison control specialists will ask for this information.
- Call the emergency animal poison hotline. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center phone number is (888) 426-4435 and available 24/7.
- Keep your pet calm and restrained. If your pet is experiencing distress or exhibiting unusual behavior, keep them calm and confined to a safe area to prevent them from ingesting more of the toxin or causing harm to themselves.
Happy Holidays from Maya Pet
We hope this guide helps you as you enjoy delicious treats and fun this season. We wish all our furry friends and their families a safe, happy, healthy holiday season! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more tips, tricks, and holiday fun.