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Holiday dinners for people and pets

Original Publication Date: December 21, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

A turkey or ham with all the trimmings will grace many dinner tables this Christmas. It is natural to share the feast with your family pet. After all, he is family. Make sure you offer a tasty delight and not a tummy ache. Your pet can enjoy some holiday favorites. Others can upset his stomach or worse. Put together a scrumptious healthy feast for your pet. Avoid foods on the do-not-share list.

Many holiday favorites can lead to severe gastrointestinal upset or to an emergency trip to the vet. Don't share turkey skin or bones, fatty ham, nutmeg, sage, grapes, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, onions, shallots, garlic, raisins, chocolate or alcohol. Be aware of foods that are hidden ingredients in some of your delectable dishes. There are goodies that you can safely put in your pet's food bowl.

Turkey is great for dogs as long as it is not covered with seasonings and garlic which can be very toxic to pets. Remove the skin, excess fat and all bones as they can splinter and cause problems. Sharing ham or other pork dishes is not recommended. Note pork is not an ingredient in commercial foods. It is too fatty and salty and according to experts at the American Kennel Club (AKC) often contains parasites that do not cook out properly. Choose fully cooked salmon or tuna as a healthy entree dish option.

Some human side dishes can be served to your pet. Others require a few modifications. Cranberry sauce is safe but should be offered in small quantities as it can have a high sugar content. Mashed potatoes are another treat your dog can share as long as you haven't added ingredients like cheese, sour cream, onions, or gravy. Dinner rolls are great.

Holiday dinners for people and pets Holiday dinners for people and pets
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Green beans are healthy, but green bean casserole is off limits. The dairy in the sauce can cause diarrhea, and onions can be toxic. Plain green beans are a tasty treat. Similarly, baked sweet potatoes are fine, but candied sweet potatoes or yams are loaded with undesirable sugar and spices.

Plain pumpkin is good for a pet's digestion, but pumpkin pie is a no-no. According to the AKC, cinnamon and its oils can irritate a pet's mouth and cause diarrhea and vomiting. Small amounts of nutmeg can trigger an upset stomach.

Large amounts can increase the heart rate and may lead to seizures.

Offer holiday treats in small portions. Keep your pet on his regular diet but reduce the amount to balance the holiday goodies. Too much of a good thing can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Choose foods for your pet with care. Avoid those that can create a tummy ache and stick to those that are real treats. Have a holiday feast that is enjoyable for you and your pet.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at