Many of us look forward to indulging in delicious festive treats during the holiday season, but as your pet’s sad eyes watch you devour your third cookie plate, you may feel like the Grinch. While many classic holiday dishes can be harmful and sometimes toxic to your pet, you can share the holiday cheer with your furry friend by offering them healthy, pet-safe alternatives. Our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team describes holiday foods that are dangerous for pets and includes safe holiday treat alternatives you can feel good about offering your furry pal.

Indulge your pet’s sweet tooth

While people gravitate toward chocolate and sugar when a craving arises, these treats are anything but sweet to a pet who ingests them. Chocolate is toxic to many species, but dogs are most at risk because they tend to eat things without much thought, compared with notoriously picky cats. Chocolate toxicity affects each pet differently, according to their size and individual sensitivity, but chocolate can cause your pet to go into a coma or die. Dark and bitter chocolates are the most dangerous, including baking chocolate, cocoa powder, or unsweetened chocolate chips, bars, or bark.

Xylitol is a natural sweetener and sugar substitute often used in sugar-free desserts, but this ingredient is extremely toxic to dogs. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a dog to experience hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, or even death. If you want to indulge your pet, give them something sweet that won’t cause them harm. Most fruits are healthy, and many dogs enjoy these delicious treats as much as we do. Fruits are not only tasty, but also provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them an unbeatable healthy treat. Although most fruits are healthy for dogs, grapes, raisins, and currants are toxic to them because these fruits are linked to canine kidney failure. If serving your pup fruit, always remove pits, seeds, or cores, because they can lodge in your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Some tasty fruits to offer your dog include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Melons (e.g., watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe)
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Oranges
  • Peaches or nectarines
  • Pears
  • Mangoes

Give your pet something safe to chew 

Although you may think a turkey or ham bone is safe for your pet to chew, think again. These holiday leftovers can lead to pain and injury. Hard, uncooked bones can break or chip your pet’s teeth, and cooked bones can splinter and lacerate your pet’s gums, tongue, and digestive tract. Also, ingested bone fragments can create blockages that necessitate emergency life-saving surgery. Rather than giving your pet a bone to chew, give them something safe and satisfying in which they can dig their teeth. Edible chews are a safe alternative to meat bones. Your pet can safely ingest Nylabones and chews that provide health benefits, such as dental treats. If you’re looking for a chew that will help banish your pooch’s pungent breath, look for products that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance. The VOHC awards their seal of acceptance to products proven to slow plaque and tartar accumulation.

Let your pet crunch while getting nutrients

While you can safely give your pet most veggies as treats, ensure you avoid onion, garlic, and other veggies in the Allium family. Although these tasty vegetables elevate boring side dishes’ flavor, they can destroy your pet’s red blood cells, potentially leading to fatal anemia. However, most veggies are still a fun and healthy treat to give your pet. Like fruits, fresh vegetables are packed with nutrients, fiber, and flavor that will satisfy and satiate your pet’s appetite. Experiment by offering your pet various veggies to determine what they like best. Pet-safe veggies include:

  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Green peas
  • Corn
  • Cabbage
  • Zucchini 
  • Spinach 
  • Kale

Give your pet a treat made with love 

Commercial pet treats often contain unhealthy ingredients such as sugars, artificial dyes, and excessive calories. Rather than buying treats for your pet, bake them a healthy, tasty treat to show them how much you care. Many recipes are available online such as these yummy peanut butter pupcakes or carrot and catnip kitty treats. Do some research to ensure a recipe’s ingredients are pet-safe, and consult our team if you have questions or concerns. 

Your pet’s tail will wag with delight as they devour their healthy holiday treats, but remember the calorie count for your pet’s treats should not exceed 10% of their daily caloric intake. This holiday season give your pet the gift of health by scheduling their annual wellness exam with our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team.