Breaking Holiday Myths | PetMD

Dr Elsa Jungman

Breaking Holiday Myths

PetMD Editorial
Updated: August 28, 2019
Published: December 17, 2010
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Thanksgiving Leftovers are for the Dogs

Holidays are for sharing. We share our love, our appreciation for one another, our food. As loving pet owners, we want to include our pets in these special times, and holiday meals are no exception. This time of sharing can be particularly dangerous for dogs, however, since many dogs tend to have en expectation that anything that is edible must be good to eat. It is our responsibility, then, to make sure that our pets do not get anything into their mouths that could be potentially dangerous or toxic.

There are ways to include our pets in the celebration, but first, let’s start with the foods that really should not be given to pets.

Unhealthy and Potentially Fatal Foods

The high-calorie, high-fat foods we humans take such pleasure in at holiday time are some of the worst foods for our pets. These foods include poultry skin, gravy, and dressings. Just one generous helping of such a fat-laden meal can begin a terrible chain of events, one of the possibilities being a potentially fatal disease called pancreatitis, which causes severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Another concern is foreign bodies (which is anything that does not naturally belong in the body, or when something is in a place where it does not belong). Even something as simple as a cob of corn can become a deadly obstruction if it gets caught in your dog’s intestinal tract.

Bones are also potentially hazardous to our pets, especially those from bird carcasses (e.g., turkey, chicken). The cooking process dries the bones, making them easy to splinter, and easy to get stuck in the passages if the digestive tract. The splintered pieces can be caught anywhere from the opening to the digestive system - the mouth - and anyplace in between, such as the throat (esophagus) or stomach. They can even become embedded in the intestinal walls.

Larger chunks of bone can also become stuck in the small bowel, causing pain and distress to the animal as other items are not able to pass through the narrow passage. In fact, internal bone fragments may sometimes require surgical removal.

Dogs are especially susceptible to toxic holiday foods such as onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, chocolate, and sugar substitutes that contain xylitol. Many of the stuffings, desserts, and side dishes made for holiday meals contain these potentially toxic products.

Remember to always take precautions when preparing your holiday meals. Make sure they are safely out of reach, because your pet will find a way to get as close to those yummy smells as possible, and will not hesitate to take a bite out of your well planned and seasoned dishes. After mealtime can be even trickier, since waste cans are even more within reach, making the temptation to dump the trash to get at the food maddening for your pet. Be good to your pet and make sure you have cleared all of the food waste from an accessible place. Last but not least, inform your visiting family members and guests that your pet is not allowed to have any foods -- at all! -- without your approval

The Healthy, Safe Goodies

And now we can move onto the safe foods list, but keep in mind that even these foods must be given in moderation

  1. White meat from the turkey (no skin or fat)
  2. Vegetables cooked without butter, seasoning, or sauces (some of the best are sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, etc.)
  3. Apple slices
  4. Raw carrots
  5. Plain pumpkin from the can (not the pie filling, which has seasonings added)


Image source:?Christina Welsh (Rin) / via Flickr