Your Pet Will Give Thanks if You Avoid Sharing These Foods

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 | Health

pets and ThanksgivingDogs and some cats enjoy holiday feasts almost as much as we do — especially when they’re gobbling up food dropped under the dining table or surfing kitchen counters for leftovers. And given that many pets are considered family members, it’s only natural to want to share tasty morsels from our celebrations with them.

But be warned: Some “people foods” can cause serious health issues for dogs and cats. To keep everyone’s holidays happy and healthy, you should resist the temptation to “treat” your pets and keep them away from these foods:

Rich, fatty foods and scraps

Your dog or cat may adore chowing down scraps of roasted turkey skin, fat trimmed from a pork or beef roast, or mashed potatoes loaded with butter or sour cream. However, such snacks can lead to digestive problems that range from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, the organ that produces enzymes that digest food and insulin that controls blood sugar, becomes inflamed. In dogs, pancreatitis symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, decreased activity or sluggishness, and mild to severe abdominal pain. Cats tend to have subtle signs such as lethargy, decreased appetite, dehydration and weight loss.

While not all table foods will trigger an episode of pancreatitis, they can still cause an upset stomach and lead to poor table manners like begging. Be sure all of your guests understand they aren’t to sneak a treat under the holiday table to your dog or cat no matter how sad his or her big brown eyes look or how intensely they stare.

Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic, along with chives, scallions and leeks, all belong to the Allium family of plants. In the right dose, these vegetables and herbs are poisonous to both dogs and cats, although cats are more susceptible to their toxic effects. Onions and garlic contain chemicals that damage red blood cells, interfering with cells’ ability to carry oxygen and making them more likely to rupture, which can lead to life-threatening anemia. These veggies can also upset a pet’s digestive system, causing vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

All forms of onions and garlic — raw, cooked, minced, powdered, dehydrated and fried (green bean casserole, anyone?) — can cause trouble. These herbs and veggies are used extensively to season “people food,” including stuffing, soups, gravies, meats, poultry and many more. To avoid potential problems, be sure to check all ingredient labels before giving your pets a treat from your holiday food plate.

Grapes and raisins

Grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants can be toxic to dogs and potentially cats. Dogs’ reactions to these fruits can vary tremendously. Some dogs may be fine if they eat grapes or raisins but, for others, even one can be enough to cause acute (sudden) kidney injury and failure. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how these fruits will affect a specific dog and, in fact, veterinary toxicologists don’t know what’s in grapes and raisins that poisons dogs. That’s why veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend never feeding these fruits — or any grape- or raisin-containing products such as juice, breads, cookies, bagels or trail mix — to your dog or cat.

If your pet should eat grapes or raisins, contact your veterinarian or the nearest emergency clinic immediately.


Many pet owners know chocolate can be poisonous to their dogs and cats, if a high enough dose is eaten. Chocolate poisoning tends to be more of an issue in dogs, primarily because cats aren’t attracted to chocolate. (Plus, some dogs will eat as much as they can of almost anything!)

Dogs and cats are very sensitive to the effects of theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate that accounts for the confection’s deadliness to pets. The amount of theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your dog. Signs of chocolate poisoning can range from increased thirst, vomiting and diarrhea to an irregular heartbeat, high heart rate, tremors and even seizures.

If you think your pet has eaten chocolate, don’t wait for symptoms to occur. Call your veterinarian, an emergency clinic or an animal poison control helpline immediately.

RELATED POST: Trick? Or Treat? Why Pets Shouldn’t Eat Chocolate


Like the other foods on our list, alcohol can be harmful to your dog’s or cat’s health. While many people think only of beer, wine or spirits as capable of causing drunkenness, alcohol can also be found in some no-bake desserts, flambés and meats marinated or cooked with alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is also produced when a dog eats raw, yeast-containing bread dough.

Signs of alcohol intoxication in pets can be similar to those of people and include incoordination, stumbling, decreased activity and vomiting. However, more serious signs — rapid drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature, seizures and respiratory failure — can occur.

Alternatives to holiday feast treats

There are still ways to include your canine and feline family members in holiday festivities without treating them to pieces of your holiday feast.

  • If you must share food from your plate with your pet, offer small pieces of only one or two new foods, such as turkey breast (no skin, bones or gravy) or plain green beans, carrots or sweet potatoes (no butter or seasonings).
  • Consider keeping special, healthy, low-calorie treats handy so that your pet can be satisfied with a special tidbit. Keep some of these pet-approved treats handy for your guests to share instead of tasty morsels from their plates.
  • Buy your dog or cat a new toy that they will go crazy over. If your pet doesn’t already have a food puzzle, consider getting one. Not only will your dog or cat get treats when he or her works the puzzle, but they also may be distracted from your food table.
  • Spend some quality one-on-one time with your dog or cat. Extra time with you is probably the best treat of all for your pet. A long walk (weather permitting) or an extra session of fetch or laser tag may be the best gift you can give your four-footed furry friend.

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