Food-Filled Holidays Are Approaching. Here's What You Can't (and Can) Feed Your Pet

As much as your dog or cat may beg, there are some foods that it's actually unsafe to feed your pet

Pet owners know all too well the look they get from their forever friends as soon as a meal makes its way out of the kitchen and onto the table before they can sneak a bite.

But as much as your dog or cat may beg, there are some foods that it's actually unsafe to feed your pet.

As we get closer to the holidays and it becomes harder and harder to resist the puppy eyes you get while carving the turkey, here are some of the foods that you can share, and some of the foods you really shouldn't.

What foods are safe for pets?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are a number of foods that pets can safely consume. But regardless of what you feed them to snack on, it's important to take it easy.

Animals "should get most of their nutrition from their regular diet," the ASPCA says on its website. "Snacks should equate to no more than five percent of their daily caloric intake, so keep portion sizes small."

And with people food that tends to be more sugary or fatty than foods for animals, "digestive upset" can sneak up on you and your pet.

With that in mind, pets can safely consume:

  • Some vegetables, "such as carrots, celery, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower or cooked (canned) pumpkin," according to the ASPCA. They're all safe foods for dogs and cats, and all of them can be eaten raw, though raw pumpkin can be difficult for dogs and cats to digest. According to the American Kennel Club, cooked canned pumpkin can even provide fiber that might help dogs with digestive issues.
  • Some fruits, like "apples, bananas, cucumbers, pineapple, cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries and kiwi," are safe for dogs and cats.
  • Popcorn is safe for pets, though the ASPCA advises skipping "excessive amounts" of butter and salt.
  • Cheese, in small quantities, is safe for pets as a snack and as a "pill disguise" for animals that get picky about taking their medicine. Too much, the ASPCA warns, can lead to upset stomachs.
  • Meats, also in small portions, are safe to share. The ASPCA recommends "lean cooked chicken, turkey, beef or pork that are free of bones and seasoning," and advises staying away from super-salty bacon and lunch meats.
  • Peanut butter is safe to share with pets, as long as you double check the label for xylitol. The sugar substitute is highly toxic to dogs, and can even be lethal. As long as your peanut butter is xylitol-free, you can go ahead and share it.

What foods are unsafe for pets?

Pet-goods retail chain PetSmart shares tips for pet owners on its website, including a list of foods that are unsafe for dogs. The American Kennel Club, the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States also all provide information on what you should keep away from your four-legged friends.

Among the snacks you shouldn't share:

  • Chocolate, which is among the more well-known dangerous snacks for dogs. According to PetSmart, the theobromine in chocolate can overstimulate dog hearts. The sweet treat is also toxic to cats.
  • Cooked bones, which can splinter as dogs gnaw on them and get lodged in gums, throats and intestines.
  • Onions, garlic, scallions and chives all contain thiosulphate, a chemical that -- for dogs -- can damage red blood cells and cause digestive issues and difficulty breathing. Pet medical insurance company Trupanion says in a statement that means any holiday dishes with onions or garlic should stay out of your pet's mouths, no matter how much they drool over the stuffing.
  • The aforementioned xylitol, which can be found as a sugar substitute in gum, candy and some baked goods, as well as some peanut butters. Because it's so toxic to dogs, it can cause fatal liver damage and low blood sugar.
  • Marshmallows are also not recommended to dogs, at least by the American Kennel Society. While only some contain the toxic xylitol, even marshmallows that don't are made with lots of sugary and fatty ingredients that don't add any nutritional value for your canine.
  • Uncooked yeast dough, according to Petsmart, can cause "abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, disorientation and even depression in pets." Dog digestive systems also ferment the alcohol in uncooked dough, which poisons the dog.
  • For the same reason, alcohol is unsafe for pets. Ethanol poisoning can be lethal.
  • Caffeine, from coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks, "can cause hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, seizures and other dangerous symptoms" for dogs.
  • Macadamia nuts can cause "severe reactions" in pets, "including muscular weakness, disorientation, depression, tremors and abdominal pain," according to PetSmart. Walnuts should also be avoided, according to the Humane Society.
  • Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. "Complications range from vomiting, diarrhea, and severe gastrointestinal upset to kidney failure," PetSmart says.
  • Avocados are toxic to many animals, according to the Humane Society and the ASPCA.

And if you're worried about specific herbs or spices in Thanksgiving dinner, from basil to rosemary, the ASPCA has lists of plants that are safe, and plants that are toxic, for dogs and cats.

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