Holiday Feasts are for People, Not Pets
What is it about our nature that gets soooo much guilty pleasure from feeding our pets our food? As much as I have staunchly recommended owners NEVER feed from the table, I have to admit, I’m guilty as charged , too.
I still, however, hypocritically stick by my advice of “no table scraps, ever” motto, but if you’re like many people and simply can’t resist, I figure I can at least arm you with some common sense guidelines. Also, with the holidays upon us the temptation becomes even greater, and holiday guests can make it more of a challenge to monitor your pet’s diet.:
Foods to Avoid
Type: Many of us are aware of some of the toxic offenders—chocolate being a popular one. Though you probably didn’t know that dark chocolate (the type used for baking) is far more toxic than milk chocolate. If enough is ingested, it can be fatal.
Additionally, there are a few other common items in the home that you should completely avoid, all of which are pretty common around holidays (applicable to dogs and cats, unless specified).
Hazards for Dogs and Cats:
1. Onions and garlic—contain toxin thiosulphate. Onions are more dangerous and can build in the system over time with repeated small doses, unlike other foods.
2. Macadamia Nuts—contains unknown toxic substance to dogs only.
3. Mushrooms—contains toxins that cause liver and kidney damage.
4. Nutmeg—high enough doses cause seizures and central nervous system damage.
5. Avocado—all parts of the avocado and avocado tree are toxic to dogs.
6. Grapes and raisins—toxin unknown; causes kidney damage.
Hazards for Specifically for Dogs Specifically:
1. Macadamia Nuts—contains unknown substance toxic to dogs.
2. Avocado—all parts of the avocado and avocado tree are toxic to dogs.
If You Must Indulge…
If you simply have to give your pet a taste of ‘people food’, keep it simple…lunch meat, chicken, plain white rice or a piece of cheese can make for a nice offering.
Quantity? Smaller is Better:
Like dieticians tell people, “portion control is key.” An occasionally sliver of turkey here or hamburger piece there is usually not an issue, but be mindful of the amount, especially greasy foods and those high in fat. They cause an upset stomach and lead to diarrhea and vomiting.
Small dogs can be especially sensitive to fatty foods and potentially develop a case of pancreatitis, which is expensive to treat and potentially life threatening. Also, large breeds are prone to a dangerous condition called Bloat (G.D.V.) if they ingest a very large meal. So, keep it small and hold the gravy.
A Helping of Common Sense:
I still have people insistent on giving their dogs chicken bones and think it’s acceptable because, “that’s how they ate in the wild.” Yes, you’re right. And when their bowel became obstructed or lacerated by the shards they died a slow death because veterinarians aren’t in “the wild.”
Knowing your pet is key. For every Labrador that can devour an entire bee hive and be fine (true story: days later he began defecating hundreds of bees!), there’s a Pomeranian that gets sick from eating a tablespoon of pot roast.
And an important message for holiday guests: DON’T FEED THE ANIMALS. Even with a strong but courteous warning, kids still manage to get around it, and people who don’t own pets are typically naive on itstypically underestimate its importance.
Foods that are very rich or sweet have high potential for problems. Also, food that your pet has never been exposed to is a pitfall (even changing the type of dog or cat food abruptly can cause some pets big problems.)
One more holiday reminder: Dogs and cats aren’t very tolerant of human herbs and spices—which many prepared dishes contain. So keep it simple…if anything, lunch meat, chicken, plain white rice or a piece of cheese can make for a nice offering. And Here’s a thought, pet stores sell every treat under the sun, including special treats for the holidays. And they’re all safe!
A few weeks ago my nine year old son Kamon caught me giving our cat “Sushi” a little piece of chicken from my plate and looked at me straight faced and said, “Dad, you’re such a SUCKER!”
My son Kamon was excused. Sushi got the rest of his dinner. Not really…but I thought about it.
Dr. Kwane Stewart, DVM graduated from Colorado State in 1997. He practiced small animal medicine in Southern California before becoming a shelter vet two years ago. He’s since felt a rebirth and passionately pursues to reform our country’s animal welfare system. He lives with his son, his cat, “Sushi”, and his Doberman, “Diesel” in Modesto, California.
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