Caitlin UltimoHolidays / Pet Parenting

6 Holiday Foods to Keep Away From Your Pet

It’s finally here—the season for turkey and stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the fixing’s. If you’re anything like us, you probably wait all year to put these tasty holiday food treats on your table.

While many pet parents probably already know it’s dangerous to feed their animals table scraps on a regular basis, some might think that since the holidays only come around once a year, there can’t be much harm in giving them a little something special now. The truth is, though, many of the foods humans enjoy during the holidays are actually really dangerous for animals. “It’s a common issue where people either choose to feed their pets special holiday treats, or that the pets just help themselves,” says Stephanie Liff, DVM, of Pure Paws Veterinary Clinic in New York. “Either way, fatty holiday meals and sweets can make pets extremely sick.”

So, which holiday food is the worst offender? While it’s best to avoid feeding your pet any table scraps, Dr. Liff suggests specifically avoiding the following, whether you are traveling with pets this season or staying home:

Fatty cuts of meat.

High fat meals can cause vomiting, diarrhea or, in some cases, pancreatitis, which can be life threatening in rare cases, says Dr. Liff. “Pets are not used to eating high fat meals, so feeding them fatty cuts of meat can lead to GI upset,” she added. That means those leftover pieces of holiday food such as turkey, ham and lamb are off the table when it comes to your pet. If your cat’s a meat-lover and you can’t stand looking into those sad kitty eyes while you’re enjoying your meal, slip him some Greenies Feline SmartBites Skin & Fur Salmon Flavor Cat Treats so he feels like he’s enjoying something fancy, as well.

Bones.

So you’re skipping the actual meat scraps, but giving your dog a bone to chew on after everyone’s done, must be fine, right? Actually, “The idea of giving your pet a special treat and allowing them to gnaw on the meat bone can lead to foreign body ingestion, which can lead to surgery to remove the object from the stomach or intestines,” warns Dr. Liff. For a healthier alternative, try USA Bones & Chews Curly Bully SticksBully sticks provide the same taste advantages of real meat bones, but this kind is okay for your furry friend to swallow and digest once chewed. (Keep in mind, though, that all pets should be supervised when chewing any kind of treat.)

Desserts with raisins or grapes.

Raisins and grapes are both toxic to pets and can cause kidney failure, says Dr. Liff. Holiday food, specifically desserts such as fruit cakes and cookies should be kept on the table for your hands only – and maybe Santa’s too, but it’s important to avoid giving your pet foods that include these items in any amount. If you are traveling with pets this season, be especially safe that your pup doesn’t get into that bag of trail mix.

Chocolate and Cocoa.

Just because your go-to holiday food involves a whole lot of chocolate doesn’t mean your pet’s should, too. Chocolate is also toxic to animals, warns Dr. Liff, and that goes double for chocolate desserts with high cocoa contents. “Cocoa has a substance in it that can cause cardiac arrhythmias, neurologic signs or GI upset like vomiting or diarrhea,” she said. “Additionally, many chocolate containing desserts are also high in fat and sugar, and those ingredients are not good for pets, either.” If you can’t stand the thought of leaving your pet empty-pawed while you down your chocolate treat, try treating with Wellness Kittles Grain-Free Chicken & Cranberries Recipe Crunchy Treats Cat Treats for your kitty or Blue Buffalo Health Bars Baked with Bacon, Egg Cheese Dog Treats for your pup instead.

Eggnog.

If you’re a lover of this creamy holiday drink, you might be tempted to slip some into your dog or cat’s water bowl around this time of year. Either that, or your pet might be tempted to help herself to whatever’s close enough to get into. “It’s sweet and smells appealing, but ingestion can mean illness for your pet,” says Dr. Liff. Eggnog with alcohol in it is especially dangerous, since it has the same effects on dogs that it does on people, but pets are more sensitive to it. Pets who have ingested alcohol will likely exhibit signs including lethargy, respiratory depression, GI upset and incoordination. It’s not just the eggnog, though—Dr. Liff warns pet parents to keep their furry friends away from all alcohol.

Spices.

Weird as it may seem, nutmeg can actually cause heart palpitations and anxiety or agitation when consumed in high doses, says Dr. Liff. “Cinnamon can also cause upset stomachs due to its novel nature, as most pet foods and treats don’t include it,” she added.

Even though you may know these key foods to avoid, make sure that your friends and family do, too, especially if you are traveling with pets or having guests over. Stock up on healthier treat and snack options for your pet like those listed above before the holidays hit full force and you’ll be assured everyone in your household — both 2- and 4-legged — will have something special to enjoy.

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