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Pets and Holiday Concerns

Pets and Holiday Concerns

Once again the holiday season is fast approaching.  With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas quickly falling one after another we can be sure on one thing – food will be involved.  Our pets will want to join in on the feasting but that is not a good idea for many reasons.   

There are a variety of foods that show up on the holiday table and most of them should not make it into our pet’s food bowl.  Turkey is an item that many of us enjoy.  Your first thoughts may be that turkey is good for our pets but, actually, turkey is a maybe.  Avoid feeding your pet raw turkey, turkey skin, and turkey bones.  Raw turkey probably carries harmful bacteria that can sicken your pet.  Turkey skin is fatty and covered in potentially harmful spices.  Turkey bones splinter and may cause throat, stomach, or intestinal perforations that could require surgical repairs.  Small amounts of cooked plain turkey are not harmful to pets and most animals will really enjoy plain turkey bits.

Traditional side dishes may be doubtful too.  Sweet potatoes are healthy for pets as long as they are cooked without seasonings.  Loading up sweet potatoes with lots of butter, brown sugar, marshmallows, and lots of salt or other seasonings move sweet potatoes into the do not feed category.  Another popular holiday side dish is green bean casserole.  Plain green beans, without seasoning, are good for pets but nix the casserole version because of the fat, seasonings and the crunchy onion topping.  Maybe dressing or stuffing is acceptable because it is made mostly of bread.  Nope, not good.  The dish contains onions and seasonings that pets must avoid.  Carrots are healthy but they are in the maybe category.  Plain carrots without seasonings are fine but avoid glazed carrots.  Mashed potatoes are another problematic side dish.  Continuing the ongoing theme, plain mashed potatoes are pet acceptable but once they are doctored with the good stuff that we humans like, pets cannot have them.  Cranberries are good for pets but avoid cranberry sauce.

Other food and beverage items that may make a holiday or party appearance are chips and dips, mixed nuts, and different types of cheese need to be avoid. They may be covered in salt and fat or include prohibited items such as onions or garlic.  Alcoholic beverages are permanently off of the pet menu.  Deserts need to be avoided as well as they may include chocolate, excessive sugar or macadamia nuts.  A few plain pecans instead of a slice of pecan pie may be used as a treat.   In addition to avoiding prohibited foods, please watch out for your pet’s health and waistline carefully monitor how much food is given during the holidays.  Over feeding during the holidays can lead to weight gains that can be hard to eliminate.  Too much food, especially the wrong types of food, can lead to serious health conditions such as pancreatitis which would necessitate an emergency visit to a veterinarian.

Managing your pet’s environment should be a key step in holiday preparation.  If your pet is already trained to stay out of the kitchen during food preparation, you are ahead of the game.  Otherwise, pets can be kept out of traffic patterns by using a crate or a baby gate, putting animals in another room, or sending the dog outside for a while.  Any of those actions will prevent animals from stealing food off of countertops or tables or from becoming a tripping hazard.  I have a friend who owned a white German Shepherd Dog.  One day, she prepared a large pot of tomato sauce.  After the sauce cooled, with pot in hand, she turned toward the counter behind her and tripped over the dog who had quietly entered the kitchen.  Red sauce went all over the dog and floor.  For weeks she had a pink dog.  Luckily, the tomato sauce was cool or the dog would have suffered serious burns across much of his body.   The situation could have been prevented by placing the dog in a secure location away from the kitchen while she was cooking.

Let’s talk about trash for a minute.  All households generate trash.  Some trash consists of paper products, some is hazardous such as empty bottles of cleaning products, and some may be table scraps or other food stuffs.  Many dogs find the smells coming out of the trash can irresistible.  Another friend has a terrier mix dog who loves trash.  Even a trash can placed on top of a counter does not deter him.  If the trash can is not kept in a locked closet, he considers it fair game.  The trash can may hold a turkey carcass, fish bones, onion or pieces of garlic, and many other items that are harmful to animals.  A good practice is to bag trash and take it to a secure outside receptacle to eliminate an opportunity for trash diving.  This is another time when managing a pet’s environment is important to keep them safe.


During the holidays, some of us will have guests at the house which will increase the overall household activity level.  For some pets, the more the merrier but for others the increased activity may be overwhelming.  It is likely that your pets will want to come say hi and check out things.  After a short visit, the guests and the pets may appreciate some separation.  Therefore, make sure that the pets have a room or place that they can go to get away from the activity.  Open doors are another concern with more people in the house and that provides an opportunity for pets to escape and be lost or injured.  Guest visits are another time when a crate, gate, or a separate room should be used to keep our pets safe.  With some advanced planning, the holidays can be a happy and safe time for the whole family.

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