Holiday Pet Tips from Dr. Rod Van Horn

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2013

Visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, the smell of spiced apple cider, lights decorating your house, carols on the radio and in stores, the rush of buying gifts, traveling to see family members … these are among the many things that happen around the holiday season.

People – and some pets – are gathering around the kitchen for treats, snacks and large delicious meals! What does this mean? You guessed it! It often means a few extra pounds for us and sometimes for our pets, as well.

While it may be difficult to practice self control in our over indulgence of calories, it is very important to practice self control for our pets. Now, while some may advocate NEVER feeding “table food” to our pets, the reality is that most of us will succumb to those large brown eyes staring at us begging, “Please, just one small morsel won’t hurt…” This can be true depending on the “tid bit” you offer your pet.

With that in mind, and a bit of flexibility on the part of our ‘NEVER” give human food to animals friends, here are some OKs and some definite NOs when it comes to the topic of table food.

First things first: if you don’t want your pet to be a “beggar” at your table, then don’t start the habit by offering those morsels you are eating during your meal. However, should you choose, a small portion of a cooked potato, boiled rice, green beans (cooked or raw), carrots, or a small portion of a slice of bread would be options that will still convince your pet they are getting something special. These are low in fat and don’t add too many calories if fed in small portions. Remember the size of your pet as well! A small portion for a Lab is not a small portion for a Yorkie, for example, with regards to percentage of total daily calories. Treats specifically formulated for pets such as Sentry Pur Luv treats are a good alternative to table food, when given in the appropriate amounts.

Always avoid the turkey drippings, or that roasted golden brown fatty skin from your bird. The fatty trimmings from any meat should be avoided. Gravy is also a no-no. The ingestion of fat can, many times, provoke an episode of pancreatitis, for example (which is painful and can be life threatening), or at the least bad diarrhea and/or gas.

No bird bones or pork bones, either. Onions are also off the list for your pet. Of course, there are “extras” that go into the trash can, so make sure your trash is pet-proof. Every year during the holidays we see cases of “garbage eating” that leads to sick pets.

What about fruits or nuts, you might ask? No grapes or raisins. Use a lot of caution with the nuts or seeds of any fruit such as apples, apricots, peaches for example. The nut portion is toxic. Almonds and walnuts can also be problematic.

Be careful with chocolates, Poinsettia plants and mistletoe. All of these can be dangerous to pets. Best to simply make sure they are well out of reach.

And finally, NO. You can’t give Grandma’s fruit cake to the dog. (They probably won’t eat it anyway.)

The holidays are a time to give thanks and enjoy time with friends, family and our pets. Let these times be truly merry and avoid a visit to the veterinary emergency hospital by not allowing your pet to over indulge in foods or “treats” that may be inappropriate.

Wishing you and all your family members, including those four-legged ones, a very happy holiday season.


-Photo Credit: Feature image by Ruth Báneszová. Inset photo from Dr. Rod Van Horn.

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