Extension@YourService: Holiday Feasts Are for People, Not Pets

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

The Christmas and New Year Holidays are coming up and everyone is getting excited for their parties, tree decorations, and buying gifts. Many people think they are giving their pets a treat, by sharing holiday meals with them, but this practice can be very unhealthy and even dangerous. I’m writing this article to remind livestock and pet owners that giving animals part of our holiday feast can make them very sick.

  • Onions, scallions, and garlic often used in our food can be toxic for pets. They can destroy their red blood cells which results in anemia.
  • Bones can cause choking or intestinal tearing that may require surgery or could even result in death.
  • Never give your pets raw meat or eggs because they could get salmonella, ecoli, toxoplasmosis, or parasites.
  • Candy, gum, peanut butter, and baked goods could contain xylitol which can cause insulin surges and liver failure in animals.
  • Raisins and grapes can cause kidney failure.
  • Theobromine in chocolate isn’t harmful to people, but it’s the toxic part of chocolate for dogs. It’s especially found in dark chocolate and baking chocolate. It can cause a dog to vomit, have diarrhea, become overly thirsty, and can cause abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, tremors, or death.
  • Unattended plates and cups should be avoided, especially since caffeine and alcohol can cause a lot of problems in animals.

Even if you have fed your pet a certain people food in the past and they didn’t have any problems, you could be causing serious issues that you aren’t even aware of. The best thing you can feed your pet is pet food that is labeled for their species. It has all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat that is needed for that particular animal to grow and maintain. Giving them other food can really mess up their diet, causing indigestion and pain. If you switch their food, you want to do so slowly by incorporating the old food with the new food over a period of a week.

  • Cats that do not get enough taurine in their diet can actually go blind or lose part of their eyesight. Feeding them cat food prevents any worries of this happening.
  • Young animals, old animals, and ones with certain health conditions have different nutritional needs, so it’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian before switching food for your pets.

A new trend in pet care is people cooking for their animals. It is really difficult to get the correct nutritional requirements of animals by cooking for them and it can also be very time consuming and expensive. Cooking for pets should only be done if recommended by a veterinarian because of a certain medical condition. An occasional treat is ok to give your pets as long as it doesn’t consume a large percentage of their diet.

  • You also have to be careful with indoor pets around the holidays because most of our houseplants are toxic to animals. Be careful to keep your dogs and cats away from the poinsettias so everyone has a safe holiday!

If you have questions about animal nutrition, please email me at Tiff_Conrad@ncsu.edu or call 910-997-8255.