Dr. Chris Roth, DVM
It’s turkey time, and you know that means plenty of food for the whole family! But, unfortunately, many thanksgiving treats can be toxic to pets. Thankfully, there are many holiday foods you can safely share with your pets this Thanksgiving, but remember, too much of a good thing can cause tummy aches for your dog or cat. Keep in mind a few holiday tips to make sure your pet doesn’t overeat (like the two-legged family members) and protect your pet from any mishaps.
Maintain Usual Feeding Habits
During the holidays, there is a lot of extra food around the house. That means lots of tasting and snacking all day long. With that in mind, try to maintain your pet’s regular feeding schedule. Offering a treat here or there is likely harmless, but try to resist the urge to share too much. Also, remind holiday guests that might be around the house to avoid feeding pets. A nibble here and a nibble there – can quickly lead to overeating and an upset stomach. Dogs and cats need routine, so do your best to stick to regular feeding times and quantities.
What About Turkey?
Perhaps the most common question this time of year is whether it is safe to give your dog or cat turkey? The answer, however, is not simple. On the one hand (or turkey leg), turkey is not toxic to dogs or cats, so a little turkey will be a nice treat. However, the key is moderation. Only feed your pet a small amount of fully cooked, skinless, unseasoned boneless turkey. While your pet may want to gobble up all the leftover turkey, you don’t want to stuff your pet. Also, don’t let your dog near the wishbone, or any turkey bones for that matter. Turkey bones are very brittle and can cause choking or injury to dogs.
There are a lot of foods that you should not feed your dog or cat during the holidays. In other words, no-thanks-giving! While most pet parents already have a working knowledge of which foods are toxic to animals, or likely to cause a stomachache, the holidays bring a wide range of foods to the table. For example, never feed your pet:
Another rule of thumb is to consider how the food is prepared and whether it poses a risk to your pet. In other words, stuffing is a no-no for pets because it is can be prepared with spices and ingredients like onions, garlic, or raisins that are harmful to pets. So be sure to think about what ingredients were used to prepare the food, and when in doubt, don’t share with pets.
What Foods are Okay to Share with Pets?
In addition to small quantities of turkey, as mentioned, other foods safe to feed pets include:
Raw vegetables like green beans, carrots and corn
Apples (with seeds removed)
Unsweetened and spice-free pumpkin
But again, the key is moderation, and always consider the ingredients that were added. For example, plain cooked pumpkin or squash is fine for pets, but pumpkin pie filling is harmful because it has a lot of sugar added and may cause an upset stomach. The holidays are a special time of year, and it’s important to include all your family members, even the furry ones. But it’s even more important to make sure your dog or cat remains healthy.
Other Tips to Keep Pets Healthy During the Holidays
Dogs and cats have very different digestive systems than adults, so many human foods are simply too rich and fatty for pets to digest properly. Human food also tends to be prepared with high amounts of salt and sugar, which are harmful to pets. Another reason why table scraps are generally not recommended for pets is that it is more difficult to gauge nutritional value and calories. Pet food contains many vitamins and nutrients that help maintain your pet’s weight and good health. Of course, it is possible to feed your pet with homemade meals using human food, but you should consult with a pet nutritionist or pet health care provider to discuss recipes and meal plans.
Finally, holidays can be hectic, so make sure your pet has plenty of fresh water. Also, if your pet is sneaky and always finds a way to leftovers, make sure to pet proof and keep food out of paw’s reach. This also means securing trash cans and being careful with food falling onto the floor, particularly candy and sweets. While it may be convenient to have a pet “vacuum” the floor for stray food, you don’t want to have to bring in your “vacuum” for repairs due to an upset tummy. A final thought to keep in mind is insuring your pet with pet health insurance. A policy from Pets Best can help reimburse emergency vet visits that occur over the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving.