The holidays are a time when many people gather together with family, cook an elaborate meal, and enjoy eating it together. For animal lovers, it is only natural to want to share your feast with the four-legged members of your family. And in the case of younger or mischievous pets, they may even help themselves. However, which foods are safe and which may harm your pet? Here is a helpful guide.
Snacks and Appetizers
One of the most common snacks and appetizers is chips or chips and dip. With all of the flavor varieties available today, your dog will gladly sit and beg for one of those tasty-smelling chips. However, too much salt can cause excessive thirst, increased urination and even sodium ion poisoning in your pet. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and even death.
While you are busy preparing wonderful dishes for your family, make sure your curious pet does not get into any of the raw ingredients. Milk from the refrigerator will cause diarrhea in your cat or dog because our pets do not have the ability to digest cow’s milk. Raw eggs contain an enzyme that leads to skin and coat problems in your pet, so do not let your pet eat any dough or mixture containing raw eggs. Yeast dough can rise and cause gas or even organ rupture of the stomach or intestines.
Remember that cooking hazards do not end when the food is served. Many cats will climb up on the counter to check out a tasty smell. Many dogs will “counter-surf” in pursuit of tasty-smelling food as well. So please make sure to put cooking utensils and serving dishes in to soak or in the dishwasher promptly to avoid your pet helping himself to the leftovers.
When it comes to the bird, whether it is a turkey or chicken, be careful to keep the uncooked meat out of reach of your pet. Once the bird is done and it is being prepared for eating, make sure the bones end up in the trash. It is also important to explain to any guests that it is not safe to give cooked bones to your dog, because they are soft and can splinter when chewed, causing choking.
Onions, garlic and chives cause stomach irritation that can lead to red blood cell damage if eaten in large quantities. So, to be safe, do not feed your pet any dish containing these ingredients. Stuffing and casseroles often fall into this category.
Most people are aware that chocolate is dangerous for cats and dogs. Ingestion of chocolate or caffeinated substances can cause problems in your pet such as “vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death.”
Eggnog is a milk-based product and while your pet may happily drink down the sweet taste, eggnog will cause diarrhea and stomach upset later on. Save the eggnog for yourself and give your four-legged friend a special dog or cat treat instead.
Even chocolate-free candies and baked desserts may contain a sweetener called Xylitol. Ingestion of too much Xylitol may cause insulin release which can result in liver failure. Early symptoms include vomiting, loss of coordination, and sleepiness. Worsening symptoms include an inability to stand and seizures, which can lead to liver failure and even death. So to be on the safe side, keep all those tasty holiday desserts out of your pet’s reach.
Safe Holiday Treats for Your Pet
With all of these serious health concerns, what sorts of foods are safe to share with your pet during the holidays? Here are some great options:
- Plain, cooked meat like chicken or turkey without onions or garlic
- Cooked white rice
At Healing Hearts Animal Rescue in Nashville, TN, we have a tradition of preparing a special, safe holiday feast for all of our cats and dogs. We fill our CrockPot with white meat chicken and some simple spices like basil, thyme, and oregano. After the chicken has had 8-10 hours to cook to a juicy tenderness, it is torn into small, bite-sized pieces and served on plates for the cats and dogs to share. This year we mixed in some shredded cheddar cheese at Thanksgiving and it was enthusiastically received.
If you choose to serve human food to your pet as a special holiday treat just remember to keep it simple and avoid potentially toxic ingredients. If you have more than one pet, make sure to serve them separately to avoid any conflict over food.
If your pet accidentally ingests a food containing one of the above ingredients, observe his or her behavior to see if your pet shows visible distress such as vomiting, lethargy, or coordination problems. Keep in mind that toxins are a greater danger to small dogs, cats, and senior pets. If your pet shows no signs of distress, then most likely there was not enough of the substance in what your pet ate to cause poisoning. If your pet seems visibly sick, then call your local pet emergency clinic for immediate assistance.