At Tamberly Animal Hospital, we focus on preventing illness and injury in pets through owner education. And, while we encourage owners to include their pets in their daily lives, when we cover holiday festivities, our advice often includes more “don’ts” than “do’s.” 

This month, we’d like to change that by providing some safe, healthy ways to indulge your pet during holiday feasts. So, set an extra place at the table—minus the utensils—and welcome your dog or cat with a pet-friendly holiday menu. But, remember, moderation is key!

Pet-safe holiday proteins

Highly digestible, quality protein is a building block for nearly every physiological function in your pet’s body, and probably also your holiday table centerpiece. Give your pet what they crave this holiday season with a moderate serving of selected proteins, including:

  • Turkey — Turkey is a lean, relatively mild meat that is well-tolerated by most dogs and cats. Small pieces of cooked turkey are a perfectly safe and healthy option for your pet, as long as you select only white meat. Remove all skin, fat, gravy, and seasoning, to prevent dangerous and painful pancreatitis, and never give your pet bones that can splinter, and cause internal bleeding or intestinal obstruction.
  • Salmon — Well-cooked (i.e., steamed, poached, grilled, roasted, or baked), boneless salmon is a healthy protein in omega-3 fatty acids. Never give pets raw or undercooked salmon, which may contain a harmful parasite, and lead to salmon poisoning disease. Canned salmon packed in water—not oil—may be used. 

Pet-safe side dishes

What would a holiday dinner be without sides? These complementary dishes may stand in the turkey’s shadow, but you and your pet know that their flavors make the meal. Bring some healthy, nutritious color to your pet’s plate with these undeniable supporting acts:

  • Sweet potatoes — Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins, beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber. Serve these to your pet mashed, dehydrated, or roasted, but keep them plain—leave off the sugar, butter, and marshmallows, which may contain harmful xylitol.
  • Green beans and carrots — Serve these veggies raw or lightly steamed, with no seasonings. Pets love the snappy texture, and you’ll enjoy your guilt-free generosity. 
  • Corn removed from the cob — Corn is a natural protein, carbohydrate, and fiber source for pets that actually contains beneficial antioxidants. However, never give your pet a corn cob, which is indigestible, and a common cause for intestinal blockage.

Pet-safe desserts

To round out your pet’s meal, we must include dessert. Fortunately, you have several choices to satisfy your pet’s sweet tooth without sacrificing nutrition, including: 

  • Apples — Make a pet-friendly apple “pie” by combining chopped antioxidant-rich apples, crushed graham crackers, and xylitol-free applesauce to a hollow food toy. Ensure you remove all seeds, which contain harmful arsenic.
  • Pumpkin — Use only pure pumpkin—not pie filling—and add graham cracker crumbs for a pie-like delight. Or, mix with xylitol-free, low-fat yogurt for a slightly sweeter taste.
  • Cranberry sauce — If your pet prefers tart flavors, plain cranberry sauce (i.e., with no xylitol, alcohol, raisins, or currants) is pet-safe in small amounts. But, keep portions small—most cranberry sauces are high in sugar. 

Pass the plate on these pet holiday hazards

While you can easily be swept away with the spirit of giving, you’ll want to protect your pet from most holiday offerings. Avoid feeding your pet the following:

  • Gravy — Meaty gravy is commonly seasoned with onions, and high in fat, salt, and herbs, which may trigger gastroenteritis or pancreatitis.
  • Bones — Pets can choke on bones, or suffer internal bleeding or intestinal blockage, after swallowing splintered shards.
  • Yeast dough — Raw dough can rise inside your pet’s stomach, causing painful distention and fermentation.
  • Alcohol — Pets may sip sweet drinks, and suffer alcohol poisoning.
  • Foods containing xylitol — This natural sugar substitute, found in keto-friendly and sugar-free recipes and products, causes hypoglycemia and liver failure in dogs.
  • Nuts — All nuts are high in oil and fat, a known precursor to pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts are especially toxic, and affect nerve and muscle function.
  • Candy — In addition to hyperglycemia, candy ingestion can lead to pancreatitis, xylitol toxicity, choking, and intestinal blockage, if wrappers are consumed.
  • Chocolate — All chocolate is dangerous for pets, and especially baking, dark, and unsweetened chocolate. Chemical compounds stimulate the heart and nervous system, and cause toxic effects. 

Prevent accidental ingestion by storing all kitchen waste—turkey bones and carcass, in particular—out of your pet’s reach. Ensure trash cans are lidded, and kept behind a barrier. 

Toxin ingestion signs in pets

Despite your best efforts, your pet may consume something dangerous during the holiday hustle and bustle. If they do, immediately contact Tamberly Animal Hospital, or call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Hotline for guidance. Toxicity treatment is often time-sensitive, so do not choose to wait and see. 

Sometimes you may not know about your pet’s overindulgence until they are visibly ill. Call us immediately, if your pet is experiencing signs that include:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy or collapse
  • High heart or respiratory rate
  • Incoordination
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Abdominal pain, which may cause pets to stand with an arched back, or repeatedly stretch into a bow

This holiday, indulge your pet’s longing stares and pleading paws with healthy, pet-safe treats approved by Tamberly Animal Hospital. But, if they offer to “clean up” the table after dinner, you must politely decline—and that’s not as selfless as it seems.

For additional ideas for healthy pet treats, contact Tamberly Animal Hospital.