One of the most iconic parts of the holidays is by far all of the incredible food that seems to be everywhere you turn. Between the sweets and treats, savory seasonal dishes, and the warm and toasty cocktails, it's certainly easy to celebrate the season with your taste buds. However, what about your furry friends? When it comes to holiday food for pets, the good news is your pals can join in some of the foodie fun.
The most important thing to remember if you're going to let your pet indulge in some of your favorite holiday foods is to know the facts. It's vital to know which bites are safe for your pet’s food bowl and which ones you should avoid feeding to your pet.
Holiday Foods Safe for Pets
Although it's typically best to avoid feeding your pets table food, sometimes you don't mind breaking the rules for a special occasion. Enjoying a few holiday favorites with your pets can be a way to make the season merry and bright for your pals.
If you decide to share some holiday foods with cats or dogs, then opt for some of these classics.
Holiday Foods for Pets: The Nice List
Keep in mind, although these foods are safe for pets to eat, give them to your animal companions in moderation. Just like humans, your pets can have too much of a good thing (like when you drink too much egg nog at the company Christmas party). Remember, above all else, you want to give your pets a safe holiday!
- Turkey -- A little turkey is okay for your pets. Turkey is often a key ingredient in many dog and cat foods. However, ensure the turkey is unseasoned, boneless, skinless, and cooked.
- Canned pumpkin -- It might not taste quite like pumpkin pie, but your pets likely don’t have taste buds that are too picky. Pumpkin is often recommended for dogs and cats that are constipated as it can help get their digestive system on track. However, make sure that you don’t mistakenly give your pal canned pumpkin pie filling, which contains extra ingredients and lots of sugar.
- Mashed Potatoes -- Dogs and cats can both chow down on mashed potatoes, just make sure they are plain. Therefore, no butter, salt or pepper, or other seasonings.
- Sweet Potatoes -- Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes are safe for dogs and cats to eat and even offer some health benefits. You can either cut them into small pieces or mash them for your furry friends to enjoy. Just make sure not to serve your pet candied sweet potatoes. You don’t want to give your pet additional sugar, plus candied sweet potatoes often contain other ingredients, like nutmeg, that are not safe for your pets.
- Carrots -- Carrots are a healthy snack for cats and dogs, loaded with nutritious components. However, carrots can pose a choking hazard if not prepared properly. Ensure that you slice carrots lengthwise and then chop so it’s in pieces your pets can handle. Even if you cook the carrots, make sure to cut them before serving them to your dog or cat.
- Green Beans -- A small number of green beans is safe for your dog and cat to eat. But, too much could lead to an upset stomach and nausea, so ensure the serving size stays small.
- Bananas -- Bananas are a tasty snack, even offering some nutritious benefits. However, this is more true for your pup than your cat. But bananas aren’t toxic or unsafe for your cat to eat, so you don’t need to panic if she gets a hold of some while you’re baking your holiday banana bread.
- Peas -- What’s Christmas dinner without a big bowl of peas (even if the kids turn up their noses, your pets certainly won’t). Whether you feed your pets frozen, cooked, or mashed peas, this small veggie packs a powerful health punch for dogs and cats. They contain vitamin B, potassium, and other nutrients, help support bone health, and increase energy levels.
- Apples (but not the leaves, seeds, or stems) -- Plain pieces of apple can be a tasty snack for your dog and cat. However, the stems, seeds, and leaves can be toxic, so make sure you have removed all of these parts (the apple skin is okay). Also, keep in mind, apples are not the same as apple pie. Avoid feeding rich desserts to your pets, or apples covered in cinnamon and sugar.
- Cranberries -- Raw or cooked cranberries can actually be good snacks for your dog and cat. These small berries are loaded with healthy antioxidants and other vitamins that provide great benefits to your pets. In fact, cranberries can even help with your dog’s breath; always a win. However, feed them in small amounts to avoid the possibility of an upset stomach. Before giving cranberries to your cat, check with your vet. Cranberries contain something called oxalates that can potentially increase your cat’s risk of forming bladder or kidney stones, especially if she is predisposed to these issues.
Keep These Holiday Foods Away from Your Pets
Of course, with the good comes the bad. While some human foods are safe for pets to consume, many can be toxic and even deadly. Unfortunately, some of your favorite holiday foods pose quite a few hazards to dogs and cats.
Holiday Foods and Pets: The Naughty List
While some foods on the naughty list can cause serious issues for your pets, others might only cause mild symptoms. Still, even mild symptoms can make scooping your cat’s litter box particularly unpleasant. Therefore, no matter what, avoid feeding any of these holiday foods to your furry companions.
- Coffee -- It’s a popular after-meal treat to enjoy with dessert, but coffee, or anything with caffeine, including soda and tea, can increase your pet’s risk for organ failure.
- Chocolate -- You probably already had this food on your pet safety radar. Chocolate is toxic for dogs and cats, potentially causing increased heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, coma, and even death.
- Baked goods -- Avoid giving your pet tastes of all those yummy baked goods during the holidays. These items include so many different ingredients, it increases the risk that your pet eats something that she shouldn’t.
- Nuts -- When it comes to this food, there are so many varieties, and some are okay for dogs and cats, like peanuts. But, others, like macadamia nuts, are dangerous, especially to dogs. Plus, some nuts can make your pet pal choke, so err on the side of caution and avoid the nuts. Especially since a popular snack during the holidays is mixed nuts.
- Poultry Bones -- Although your pet can enjoy some pieces of turkey and chicken, make sure you have completely removed the bones. These small bones can be very dangerous, posing a major choking hazard for your dog and cat.
- Onions, Garlic, Shallots, Leeks, Scallions -- All of these foods belong to a class of foods known as Alliums. Your pets can’t eat any of them. These foods are poisonous to dogs and cats, causing gastrointestinal issues, anemia, and more.
- Xylitol -- This sugar substitute is highly toxic for pets. Ensure you keep anything sugar-free out of your pet’s reach. In fact, this ingredient can also be found in things like toothpaste.
- Alcohol -- Alcohol contains ethanol which can be fatal for dogs and cats. So, when it comes to alcohol, it’s a lot more serious than just worrying about your pet getting tipsy.
- Raw Dough -- Just like with humans, your pets should not consume raw dough. If you’re baking, it’s best to keep your pets out of the kitchen so they don’t get a hold of any dropped pieces. Additionally, raw dough can expand in your pet’s stomach causing some major problems.
- Raisins and Grapes -- Although what it is exactly about these fruits that is toxic to dogs and cats is a mystery, when ingested they can cause some big problems. The main issue is sudden kidney failure. Also, ensure your pets don’t get a hold of popular holiday foods containing these items like raisin bread or fruit cake.
- Nutmeg -- Nutmeg, especially in large amounts, can cause a lot of issues for your pets. It’s a hallucinogenic, and it can cause disorientation and seizures. It can also increase your pet’s risk for high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and dehydration.
- Milk -- Dogs and cats can’t adequately digest milk and milk products. It’s best to avoid giving milk to your pet. This also applies to milk products like ice cream that might be a part of your holiday desserts.
- Macaroni and Cheese -- It’s one of the favorite things at the kid’s table (and the adult’s table, too) but it’s not okay for your pets. Mainly because of the cheese, since dogs and cats have issues digesting milk.
- Cranberry Sauce -- Although cranberries might provide some health benefits to your dog, avoid giving your pets cranberry sauce and cranberry juice. These products contain a lot of sugar. Plus, they can contain extra ingredients that could be harmful to dogs and cats.
- Cinnamon -- Cinnamon isn’t necessarily toxic for your pets, it just can cause some unpleasant side effects. It can also be very irritating to your pet’s mouth and throat. Plus, it could trigger allergic reactions in some pets. So, if an item contains cinnamon, it’s probably fine, but it’s best to avoid giving it to your pet.
What to Do If Your Pet Eats Something Toxic
Keep a close eye on your pet if she eats something dangerous. Call your vet immediately for guidance or Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435. Follow the instructions they give you and seek medical attention as soon as possible if the situation calls for it.
It’s certainly okay to let your pets enjoy some of your holiday food favorites, just do so safely. Keep the servings small; so, no going back for seconds. Sorry, Fido! For more helpful tips on how to keep your pets safe and healthy check out the rest of our blog! We’re always adding more ways for you to become an even better pet parent!