Sharing food with pets: Festive foods to give and avoid for the holidays
From turkey breast to pumpkin, these are the foods to look out for.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Feeling excited about sharing your food with your pets during the holidays is natural. After all, giving your pets a little table scrap after a sumptuous feast can't be that harmful. Or can it?
The fact is, many festive foods can damage your pet's health. Giving your pets certain foods may put them at risk of severe illnesses you can otherwise avoid. Before sharing your holiday food with your pets, make sure you know which foods are safe for them and which ones aren't.
Worst holiday foods to share with pets
It may be a holiday tradition for you to shower your pets with gifts and tasty treats. But it's best to avoid the following foods to keep this festive season safe and healthy for your furry friends.
Chicken or turkey bones
If you cook up a beautiful turkey or whole chicken for a feast, keep the poultry bones away from your pets.
Poultry bones can break easily during the cooking process. While humans usually know to eat around bones, pets do not. The bones can cause internal punctures when your pet accidentally swallows the cracked and splintered parts.
Other possible risks of giving your dog poultry bones include choking, gastrointestinal obstruction and vomiting. Never share cooked bones, and clear your table to avoid any overeager pets from grabbing them.
Turkey meat in moderation is OK, but avoid offering turkey skin due to its high-fat content, leading some pets to experience symptoms of pancreatitis, like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Contact your vet immediately if you notice a combination of these symptoms.
Chocolate and tea
You likely know that pets shouldn't eat chocolate because of its caffeine content. But this isn't the only food component to avoid.
Both chocolate and tea contain the naturally occurring substance theobromine, which has similar effects as caffeine and is just as poisonous to cats and dogs. Theobromine and caffeine stimulate the heart and dilate blood vessels. Pets are more sensitive to the effect since they can't metabolize it as efficiently as humans.
Head over to your vet as soon as possible if your pet ingests anything containing caffeine and theobromine.
You might think a few licks of sweet eggnog won't do any harm, but the safety issue with pets and alcohol lies in the amount they drink. Signs of alcohol toxicity in your pet include slower breathing, low body temperature, low blood pressure, weakness and vomiting.
Remember that alcohol isn't restricted to drinks only. Many festive pastries may contain alcohol, and raw bread dough containing yeast has an alcohol content, too.
Certain vegetables and fruits
Onions and garlic make great seasonings for your holiday foods, but they're not suitable for your pets. Whether raw, cooked or in a powder, both vegetables can cause anemia — a deficiency of red blood cells.
You'll also want to keep your pets away from avocados. This fruit contains persin, which can lead to diarrhea or even damage your pet's heart.
Not all nuts are dangerous to your pet. But many nuts, such as almonds, pecans and walnuts, contain fats that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. As the fat found in turkey skin can lead to pancreatitis, so can the fat found in these nuts.
Additionally, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. If they ingest any, you may see weakness, depression, vomiting or tremors.
Holiday foods you can share with pets
Not all holiday foods are dangerous for your cozy companions! Enjoy some of these delicious treats with your pets.
While you should avoid turkey skin, you can share fully cooked, boneless turkey breast with your pet. Of course, make sure what you set aside for them is free of seasoning and stuffing, as there could be onions, garlic and fat.
Turkey meat itself also contains some fat. Give a small amount of white meat, which is lower in fat than dark meat.
Carrots, sweet potato and green beans
There are safe and healthy veggies for your pets, including cauliflower, carrots, celery, green beans and sweet potato.
Just be sure the vegetables aren't covered in gravy, butter or anything too fatty.
Baked bread is an excellent low-calorie filler for your dog. Just be sure there's nothing uncooked in your bread. Raw and uncooked foods can contain bacteria and parasites, which are usually killed in the cooking process.
Along with sweet potatoes, you can also give your pet some white potatoes, as long as they're cooked. Raw potato contains solanine, which is toxic to dogs, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Cooked potatoes have less solanine than raw potatoes. However, offering cooked potatoes in moderation is wise to avoid solanine poisoning.
The health benefits of pumpkin are plentiful. Pumpkin is rich in nutrients, such as vitamin A, iron and folate. High in fibre and soothing for the stomach, this low-calorie treat can even help with weight loss if you swap it for a portion of kibble. Raw but prepared pumpkin seeds are great when you want to add variety to snacks, as pumpkin seeds contain many antioxidants to help cardiovascular health, for example.
But how you prepare pumpkin dishes makes all the difference for pet safety. Avoid sweetened pumpkin pie mixes, which contain many sugars and spices. Also, make sure you give the correct amount of pumpkin or pumpkin seeds based on your pet's weight. For instance, about 5 ml (1 tsp) of canned pumpkin per 4.5 kg (around 10 lbs) each day is suitable.
If your pet loves naturally sweet foods, you may want to add apples to their diet. Apples benefit your pet's health, containing antioxidants, vitamin C, fibre, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and water. First, prepare apples safely for your pet by removing the stem, core and all seeds. Then, peel the fruit, cut it into small chunks and serve it to your pet!
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