Holiday Food Safety for Pets

by The Puritan's Pride Editorial Team

Veterinary Technician Molly Bonacci shares food safety tips for pets just in time for the holidays.

We all know that the best part of the holiday season isn’t the presents: it’s all the delicious food that we get to enjoy from Thanksgiving to Christmas and beyond. While we may be tempted to share these culinary delights with our furry companions, not everything that is good to us is good for our pets. For those of us working in veterinary medicine, the holiday season brings with it a sharp spike in the number of sick pets and frantic pet parents that rush into our offices for emergency treatment.

Food for Fido

Gastroenteritis — an acute irritation of a dog’s stomach and intestines — is often caused by bacteria and parasites, but new and unusual foods can also lead to stomach upset. Vomiting and/or diarrhea are commonly experienced by dogs after consuming food outside of their normal diet, so keep this in mind before slipping any food to Fido under the dinner table.

Going Cold Turkey

Turkey is safe for dogs to consume, but it’s crucial that they do not eat the fatty portions (like the skin and large chunks of fat) and bones.

The sharp edges of turkey bones can puncture the lining of the stomach and intestines, or even cause an obstruction.

Signs of an obstruction include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. Obstructions, if left untreated, can cause extreme discomfort and even death.

Unlikely Suspects

Most people wouldn’t expect a potent flavoring agent like garlic or onions to appeal much to their pets, but when you think of some of the things that have been in their mouths, are you really that surprised? Be aware of the foods on your table that include onions and garlic, like stuffing, and prevent your dogs from consuming them. Both can cause anemia and/or liver damage. Signs of anemia include pale gums, decreased appetite, and difficulty exercising. Signs of liver distress include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and increased thirst.

Ham for the Holidays

One of the most common things we see in veterinary hospitals during the Christmas season is pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas most often caused by fatty foods like ham and other pork products.

Some signs and symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, it is best to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Safe and Sound

Here are some holiday foods that are safe for dogs to consume in small portions:

Plain sweet potatoes are not only safe – they’re often used as an ingredient in dog treats. Mashed potatoes are safe, provided the recipe does not contain fatty flavoring agents like gravy, cheese, butter, or sour cream, and of course garlic. Plain green beans are safe, but skip the salty additives. Canned pumpkin is safe if sugar-free, as are low-sugar cranberry sauces.

One last tip: Keep your garbage locked away from household pets; mischievous pets will go to great lengths to get what they want, so keep them out of the garbage and be mindful of their movements while you cook.